Eric Solomon Oral History Transcript
Interview conducted by Peter Carroll
February 7; March 13, 1992
Labor Archives and Research Center, San Francisco State University
1992, revised 2015
Copyright © 2015
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Eric Solomon Oral History Transcript
Interviewer: Peter Carroll [PC]
Interviewee: Eric Solomon [ES]
Date: February 7, 1992
Subject: San Francisco State Strike 1969-1970
[Begin Tape 1 - Side 1 (A)]
PC: This is February 7, 1992, I’m Peter Carroll, I am interviewing Eric Solomon for the
Oral History Project of the San Francisco State Strike of 1968-69, including its
background and things like that.
And I guess, Eric, the way to begin this is for you to maybe just give us a little bit
about your background. Your birth, age, education, things like that,
ES: Okay. I was born on October 8th, 1928. I was educated in the Boston Public Schools
until 1 reached the 7th grade, then 1 went to an endowed school, a kind of private school,
which you didn’t have to pay to go to and that’s when my education was - began and
really ended because it was a wonderful education. And then 1 did spend a dozen or so
years at Harvard. 1 didn’t learn much, but 1 got all the requisite degrees, BA, MA, and
PC: In English?
ES: In English. Two years out, after I took my Ph.D oral when I was in the service, that was
‘53 to ‘55 and I was stationed in Germany. And I finished, I came back to Harvard where
I finished my Ph.D. and did some administrative work as a - 1 was called assistant
director of the Bureau of Study Council for a couple of years and worked in the tutorial
My first job, real teaching job then was at Ohio State where I stayed for six years.
PC: What are the dates about?
ES: Ohio State was 1958 to ‘64. And had a little administrative post there, too. Executive
secretary, I guess it was, for the English Department and became - I’ve always been very
- since age 25 or so, involved in politics. Very involved. And we - my last year there we
spent a - kind of a non-paying fellowship at Johns Hopkins where my wife had a paying
fellowship. I was on sabbatical. And that’s where I wrote the book that was my best
book on Stephen Crane - work there and we decided not to return to Ohio State by that
time. Fifteen of the best people in my department had departed, quit, and so I got myself
a job at San Francisco State on the premise that whereas in Columbus, Ohio, I was
always being called on in any political business. Indeed, I spent two years as president of
the Central Ohio ACLU. At San Francisco State where everybody was political, that was
its reputation, I could fade back into the woodwork and do my teaching and writing. That
probably was the worst premise that I’ve lived on.
PC: Let me ask you something about Ohio State for a second. Just maybe briefly you
could give me a sense of what some of these political issues involved.
ES: Okay. The major issue was free speech. We had hired as an institution at Ohio State
what - Mike DeSale told me, the president, a man with the improbable name of Novice
G. Faucet, a former basketball coach - called unfortunate acquisitions from Eastern
universities, which meant Jews, and people somewhat left of center. And the immediate
item - 1 mean there were lots of political activities. I was involved in trying to integrate
the fraternities, for example, with a man who was a very good organizer. A fellow
named Phillip Euse. It was not my fault that he was an EBI informant during that whole
And with the ACEU, obviously, we dealt with the usual items that one does in such an
organization. But Columbus was a very reactionary city and it was a state capital, so that
we were always under the eye of the legislature. In 19 - oh, I would say it was 1961 or 2
- 1. Whenever the HU AC came to San Erancisco and - ’60. ‘60, okay. Well, it - you
may remember had a lot of national coverage of the protests there, and one of the people
who was most visible and most attractive to some of us on the television was a man
named William Mandell, who you know refused to talk. And so one of the part-time
faculty, actually a Ph.D. candidate, simply invited Mandell to come to Columbus to
speak. And we had had other people who had been invited to speak and Ohio State
operated still under a gag rule that went back to the 1930s, we discovered, that no one
really could speak unless the Board of Trustees said okay. It was almost never applied,
of course, in later days.
Well, in the case of Mandel, they did. And the problem was that there wasn’t an
appropriate organization that this man had invited. Even so then an organization, I
believe it was the Dissent Eour, covered and they - their faculty advisor and they went
through it. And, of course, the thing escalated, and escalated to a massive extent. It was
- it was a real stand-off between the faculty and really the old-time faculty leaders had
come and - 1 was just a kid being drawn into this and sort of a gopher. People like Ray -
Ray Dulles, I believe you probably know of the historian, and my own department chair
and others were the leaders in trying to persuade the president and the trustees that this
would be all right.
And it finally culminated in a massive faculty meeting where we were sure we had the
votes, the thousand or so faculty, and the president called in all the adjunct faculty, who
according to constitution and votes, which meant all the county agents and all the point 1-
0 position, medical doctors, and we were defeated in a very raucous faculty meeting and
we lost. And Mandel came anyway and spoke and Henry’s - in Henry St. Onge’s -
PC: Henry St, -
ES: St. Onge.
PC: St, Onge,
ES: St. Onge. Saint and then 0-n-g-e. And he lost the job that he had been hired for in
Nebraska, one of the universities there. He won his case 10 years later, and been
blacklisted really ever since, some - years. And things went on, but people said that if
this is going to be this kind of place, then with California opening up and all sorts of
other jobs we. ..my English Department was the ones who founded, really, the Humanities
Division at UC San Diego. People went to Santa Cruz and - so I looked for a job.
PC: Let me interrupt, one more question, back in Columbus, there was a very important
NSU meeting. National Student Union meeting in Columbus in 1961 or ‘62, Were
you - did you hear anything about that?
ES: I remember the meeting. The man who was at that time president of the student body, a
man named Phil Moots, was very big in that operation, but, no, I wasn’t involved in any
PC: That was the meeting that brought the free speech issue to the students around the
ES: Yes -
PC: - in local [unintelligible] -
ES: - it was because of this.
PC: Yes, Okay, Very good.
So you came to State - San Francisco State in the fall of ‘64?
PC: What kind of place was that? Can you describe it as you rememher it?
ES: Oh, yes. It was a liberal teacher’s dream. Progressive, I guess, is the term I would use.
But most of us thought of us as liberals in those days, you remember - recall. It was
filled with a faculty that had most unusual backgrounds. These were not the traditional
research faculty, but they were artists. That was done by Daniel Weiss, my office mate,
who was not only a sculpture, one of the best psychoanalytic critics I have ever
encountered, a seven steps beyond the black belt judo champion, a musician, and a
wonderful teacher of literature. A man who had known everything who hadn’t published
enough and so had left, fired really, from the University of Washington. Multiply that by
six or seven hundred, it had, the University, a tradition of faculty control, which was very
new. They’d had a very authoritarian president in Glenn Dumke, before that a man
called Eeonard. But when I got there, there was a relaxed, tired, prematurely aging,
wonderful man named Paul Dodd, who had come from UCLA, I believe. And he simply
said the academic senate should run the institution. I’m not interested in such details.
And it was a very heady time there.
The student body as it developed - but at that time, was not particularly political, it was
educational. They ran what was called the “Experimental College” where gurus like Paul
Goodman and Harold Taylor would be given professorships to come and talk for a
semester. Saul Alinsky was one of them. And, of course, obviously a great deal of
organization was going on which, when I got there, among the students, I didn’t really
know much about. What I’m describing is a tremendously open and experimental
campus. We had an incredibly heavy teaching load for courses, which meant we could
teach damn near anything we wanted because we just created courses. I was brought in
to teach a course, for example, to create a little field in literature and society, and so I
gave courses in novel and politics, which, you know, was -
PC: Briefly, could you describe what your appointment procedure was like when you
came out here? Were you interviewed and -
ES: Absolutely I can describe it. You are dealing with someone with total recall about
himself. Maybe we all have that.
I decided - my wife was a physician at that time, involved in academic medicine. There
would be six cities that we could both function in. I betrayed her once by bringing her to
Columbus where she couldn’t. Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and so on, and San
Erancisco. And I did work for a guy at Harvard whose brother was, as far as I knew at
that time, head of a newly joined English Department. Something that was called
Language Arts that had been run by a very tough lady named Caroline Sehrodes, and
kind of a very traditional English Department and other things. They put it all under one
And so my friend, Charlie Whitlock wrote his brother, Baird, and said “here is a good
man. You should interview him.” Unbeknownst to me, there had been a revolution in
the department. Baird Whitlock, much loathed, had been removed, and Caroline
Sehrodes had taken over.
Despite that fact, she did answer my letter. She answered it and said that there was no
job, but that she would talk to me at the Modern Language Association meetings. I went
there. I met her for a drink. I charmed her. And she wanted to hire me. I met later that
day with a couple of guys who I assumed were the hiring committee, and that’s all I
heard for two or three weeks. She went right back and betrayed the guy she had sort of
promised the particular job to, and it was Sheldon Sacks from Berkeley who later went on
to Chicago. He did very well. And I got a letter offering me an appointment as an
associate professor, which was the rank I had had in Columbus. Not with tenure. They
never gave tenure - 1 had tenure a number of years at Columbus - it was my third year, I
think - and I accepted.
The only twist on that was she then called me about two months later and said that she
had been fortunate to meet this absolutely wonderful man named Joe Dorias, who had
been a teacher of mine. He actually had been when I was at Harvard. Was in Europe
now - he had actually been the fall guy, the victim, of a very bad business that happened
at Smiths College where - Harvard and other people were involved, and using the mails
to accept pornographic literature, an anti-homosexual move, and he had actually gone to
prison for a while, Joe. And he was unhireable. She hired him. That was the kind of
person she was. And then she said, “We only have one associate professorship, but I’ve
got a lectureship, which will turn into one next year, and since he’s older and he was your
teacher, would you be willing to give him my [unintelligible]. No! And - so he came as
a lecturer. But that was it.
PC: You came as a lecturer?
ES: No, he did.
When I arrived, there was a certain amount of scrutiny at the part of a department that
had many assistant professors with my age, but not with my publication record. But,
anyway, they looked at me in askance because they rarely hired at the higher levels in
those days. But I charmed them, too.
PC: Did you join any faculty organizations when you first came on the campus?
ES: Yes. I was utterly eharmed and bemused to discover that along with the normal range of
faculty organizations such as AAUP, to which I have belonged when I was at Ohio State,
parenthesis, AAUP there was the only faculty organization, and we turned it political in
this free speech right and had huge meetings there, which I remember one argument I had
- life-threatening to me, I think - with Woody Hayes, who was a professor, the coach, and
a member and so on. But that was just for here.
At San Francisco State, they had a local, 1552, 1 guess it was, of the American Federation
of Teachers, which, frankly. I’d almost never heard of, you see. And so I was recruited.
A guy next door, a pleasant alcoholic named Bob Hall, I think, was secretary of it or
something, and I said, “Sure,” and I joined. The first meeting was held in a dining room
my first day on campus really. And it was kind of disappointing because one of my
English Department colleagues, a large, deep-voiced man named Dan Knapp,
[Chaucerian], got up and bewailed the situation and the awful chancellor and the bad this
and that and money stuff, betrayals and said, “We should strike.” A very deep voice.
But he said, “We’re in a course, we can’t strike.” I said, “Oh, shit, what is this union?”
But I stayed in.
Do you want me to talk more about the union at that time?
PC: Sure, your impressions of it. It would very interesting, actually,
ES: Yes. It was an organization filled - a small organization. I mean there were about 150 of
the 600 faculty belonged to it. It had been started a few years back I believe in response
to the HU AC visit. It was a defensive move. And people like Herbie Williams, who was
an anthropologist, and Art Bierman, and a number of sort of middle-of-the-road political
people - the really old-fashioned liberal type, who later became Cold Warriors. I say
“later Cold Warriors” in the San Francisco State context - founded this union. And it had
no standing. It was simply - had been given a charter by the AFT, but of course we had
never had an election of any kind on the campus for representation, and we weren’t
unionized per se. So it was kind of an organization. The head of the union, statewide -
there was a local, actually, in each campus - was a man named John Sperling, who I had
known well at Ohio State. He actually had recruited me to become chair of the ACFU. I
followed him in that role. And John did come to see me my first year there. There was a
question about the alcohol capacity of Bob Hall, who had the office next to mine, and I
didn’t respond to John particularly. I just said, “Well, here are the people,” [Bemst
Biggs] and that - would know because they had worked with him. But Hall took this very
badly. He felt always that - before we hired him - he stayed on for many years - that I
had somehow helped do him in. He lost his job as the secretary.
Which is relevant because my second year, I believe it was, or third year - it was
probably my third year on the campus, that I’d have to look up - people asked me to
become president of the local. And I said, “Yeah, all right.” And usually that is - to get
one person willing to do it, that’s all. But we had a contested election because Hall took
the stance of - ran against me and I won. And I became president of the local -
PC: So this would be about ‘66, ‘67?
ES: It could have been ‘65 or ‘66. Probably was. Try my second year. I really think it was
my second year.
PC: ‘65, ‘66, okay,
ES: Yes. And it happened that that was the year that the leaders of the AET nationally - a
man named [Dave Selvin?], who was in charge at that time, decided that we would,
without any state or system would simply have an election. Demand to be the agent for
San Erancisco State. And we did. We had an election, and so it was a hell of a difficult
year for me. A lot of people helped me and supported me. Peter Radcliff was my right
arm at that time, a philosophy professor. Even Hall and Art and Williams and so on, and
we ran against the sort of conglomeration called the “ACSCP,” I think, or the Association
of College something or other and Professors. And there were a lot of debates and
balloting and we lost. Didn’t mean anything to them, either, I mean, but they proved that
this place was not ready for the APT to represent them even though there was nothing to
represent them to.
PC: Was this a bitter election or just a busy election?
ES: That is a very good question. Somewhere in between the two. It was surprising, I think,
to the APT people to discover that this other organization - there were some cross-
memberships. There were people who joined everything and so on - really spoke for the
faculty. We were still under the illusion, which was the illusion that under which I
arrived there, that we were a - as a faculty, a very progressive group. Now as it turned
out, as the years went on, we have not understood the nature of the school business, most
of the people in the school of Science. The fact that all - we thought all are part-timers by
nature, looking around us as we did with the tunnel vision that people in the behavioral
and social sciences and the humanities are inclined to have, where our part-timers were
even further out in every way, emotionally, sexually, creatively, professionally than the
tenure - the tenure track faculty were, that... take, for example, the bulk of the lecturers
were in Business and in Creative Arts. And in Creative Arts, they were in Music. And
musicians are notoriously apolitical if not conservative. But they had these people for
one, two hours a week and so on.
So this was part of one’s education.
PC: What I was wondering about, I guess why I brought up the question was whether
out of this kind of a dispute, you discover lines of anger or disagreement that
persist? I mean, would it have been possible to predict on the basis of this election
in ‘66 how the faculty would have lined up two years later, I mean with the benefit
ES: I don’t think so because the organization that won, which I think only about 300 people
probably voted, and many of them were in the - the same humanities and behavioral and
social science school, and it was seen almost as a kind of in-house argument. There were
no issues. The only issue was: do you want to be affiliated with a labor union or not? I
I want to back up a moment because it’s - it’s probably of some relevance. Before I got
there, the legislature voted that spring a pay raise to the State University - State College.
State College we were then. State College faculty. And because they had given a large
raise the year before to the instructors and assistant professors, they decided to make up
for that this time, and they gave a 10 percent, I believe it was, across the board raise - oh,
the golden days, huh? But they said the associate and full professors didn’t get anything
to speak of last time, so we will give them a 7 percent raise and the assistant professors,
that they do a little math there, something like a 2 percent raise, and the other 1 percent to
be used if there was an overage. They discovered, of course, no matter how you cut it,
they discovered in late September or early October that the math didn’t work. If you give
the higher paid people a larger raise, it doesn’t come out to 10 percent. And so they
announced that they were giving the full associate professors for the rest of the year a -
going to make up for the money that was already gone, a 6.4 percent cut.
And, yes, the AFT was the most active in fighting that because they had two members - 1
think it was only two people in the entire state system that had been hired at the rank of
associate professor. I was one of them. And so I was introduced to Victor Van Bourg,
who was a lawyer, and he said, “You have a letter promising you a salary.” Obviously
people who were already there had no such letter. It would just be you. “This is a
contract,” he said. “And so you will sue the CSU.” So I did. I thought it was somewhat
ironic. I am a non-litigious person. When I left Ohio State, too, we had a lawsuit. We
were suing the various administrators on the free speech issue. And we did actually go
into court. That was one of my early humiliations in this job, of many. I remember the
judge holding my letter of appointment in his hand. He said, “This is not a contract. This
has never been a contract. This never will be a contract.” And he threw the case out of
But so that, yeah, we had a different philosophy, the AFT. It was still that you - you were
an activist, you yelled. The other organizations believe much more firmly in working
through the statewide aeademie senate in such matters. So there was a philosophieal
difference, but the main learning proeess - in some of my speeehes was that if we are to
be treated like working people, then we had better organize ourselves like working
people. And that means a union. It is very difficult for someone who is part of the
professorate, who is middle-elass, who has aehieved a Ph.D., and who may not have
started from sueh a position, or even if one had, to face the faet that one is a working
person. And so that was the philosophical difference. We said, “Let’s faee it. As it is,
we are no different from the janitors, and these people suggest we are. We are part of a
tradition that goes baek to the University of Paris, and we are intellectuals and we are not
working men, and therefore - and women, and therefore we do not want to be part of a
labor union.” And that was the distinetion.
PC: Now this all occurs during your year of presidency?
PC: During that year, which now we’ve sort of identified as being about ‘65, ‘66, were
there any of the national political issues that came onto the campus?
PC: Okay, During your tenure as president, now.
ES: You betcha. There was the Vietnam War protest. Now, again, by coincidence, when you
look at that thing you’ll see that I, for various reasons, mainly conneeted with my wife’s
family, who were Communists, and things that happened to me in the Army because of
this where I beeame a seeurity risk, I, who grew up in an apolitical, probably. Republican
family in Boston, and there were very few Republicans where I lived, but my father was
one at that time, I loved polities, but I eertainly had none to speak of. I never heard of
Henry Wallaee. You know, I thought he was fareieal if I eould have voted and so on, and
I was with Stevenson - that kind of thing. But the - my own experienees pushed me to
the left and I was a reader of the National Guardian when I was in Columbus. One of the
few subseribers of that journal, I believed Wilfred Burehett and others, and I believed in
[unintelligible] elass solidarity beeause the Army did try to eourt martial me and it was
the officers -
[End of Tape 1- Side 1(A)]
[Begin Tape 1 - Side 1 (B)]
PC: Okay, your Army buddies were supporting you -
ES: Yeah, I was supporting him, so I believed very firmly in probably good people were of
the left and bad people were of the right. I had not read Marx, I am, you know, in no way
sophisticated in these matters. But my landlord, a taxi driver who also sold real estate in
[Port-a-Prince], introduced me my first year here, ‘64, ‘65, to a group that was sort of a
spin-off from the women - the Women’s Strike for Peace or the Women -
PC: There was a Women’s Strike for Peace, as well as the Women’s International
League for Peace -
ES: No, this was the Women’s Strike for Peace. A group that meets with mostly the
husbands and they said we ought to have a Men for Peace organization. And - so I
became involved in that. They were wonderful guys, but it was so different from
Columbus and, indeed, from what I was seeing on the campus. These were people who -
who were the old left of San Erancisco and they knew how to hire a hall and they knew
about things. And so I became very active with them, and we had a lot of wonderful
meetings and the big event was that we - we did have one of the first - and it was a
packed - seven or eight hundred people - meeting where Ernst Gruning was one of the
two, you remember, with Wayne Moss -
ES: - against the war, came and spoke and so on. So that when I - 1 took in every march and
so on that was there, and so when we - 1 was president of the union, we did take - oh,
yeah, you know, we did - the pamphleting we always had people at the rallies and
marches and so on. And then as I told you the power structure of the AE T - this was
before Schanker - decided that we were going to have this election, and I remember at a
meeting of the executive group, which were the presidents of all the locals, plus Sperling,
plus at this meeting, this man, Seldon, S-e-l-d-o-n - [not Selvin]
PC: David Seldon?
ES: Seldon, yeah, who was running it. Said now for the balance of this election, there will be
no talk about anything controversial such as the Vietnam War. And I said, “Well, some
of our locals are founded on the idea of political matters, and it wouldn’t be and he
shut me off And he said, “Some of our locals - some of our locals - goddamn it,” he
says, “that is not union talk. Solomon, you don’t think like a union man, you don’t look
like a union man, you don’t talk like a union man. When there’s a union, you take the
orders from on top and this is the way it’s going to be.” And so, yeah, there was a
conflict. We, of course, paid no attention to that order, but that - that kind of thinking
actually is after the strike, whieh sort of really helped to contribute to people’s laek of
interest in the AFT. Bierman never understood that and was shoeked when all these other
organizations aetually won when we did have a colleetive bargaining election, and that
was basically on the faet that, still, the better people - I’ll make this distinetion for a
moment - on the faeulty said that the AFT has beeome a conservative group.
PC: You’re pushing ahead now -
ES: I’m pushing way ahead for you and I won’t do that again. I’m sorry.
PC: That’s all right, I just - so we he clear on what you’re talking about.
As I understand it, I have only noticed from reading so correct me, hut the first
major student-faculty picketing about the war on the campus occurred over
whether the selective service would receive grades from the -
ES: Okay, let me - yeah, all right -
PC: - now this may be wrong. Is it - were there earlier episodes to that that you’re
ES: That was an interesting issue, though, if I ean take two minutes on that one -
PC: Yes, please,
ES: We had, by that time, a new president, John Summerskill, a liberal from Cornell, a
psyehologist. A sweetheart. I liked him always very mueh, and thought he was a good
man. One of the weakest men I’ve ever known as well.
PC: Let me interrupt for just - 1 just - something - while you were president of the
union, did you have contact with the administration as a union representative or as
a - the sense that you had any what you might call “negotiations?”
ES: Yes, ah - had to have them particularly during all the mishegoss [Yiddish word for
eraziness] about setting up this eleetion and so on. No, ah - no partieular grievanee
matters that I reeall or other things. But I was also eleeted - the same moment I was
eleeted as head of the union to the academic senate, whieh was really the power structure
at that time. It was a wonderful group. They were very - the best and the brightest. The
faculty really believed in it and eared in it, and I sort of eaught the eye of the old-time
lawyer who taught in the school business, Leo MeClatehy who was praetically the
permanent head of that operation, whether he was the ehair or not, he was a founder and
so on, and a very shrewd [pal] mueh in the - in the lines of the people I had known in
Boston. I was - James Miehael Curley was my next-door neighbor, so I grew up in a
And he took me on and tutored me a little in how to do this particular operation, and I
was quite - quite involved in it. And after a year or so, as simultaneously president of the
union and aeademie senator, and then - was I still president? I think so. Maybe I was a
former president. It might have been the year after. The - let me baek up beeause you
had asked me a speeifie question. One of the things that I did when I was first on the
senate and was, I think, president of the union at that time, I was very involved in our
vote not to give grades to the draft boards. And we passed that by an overwhelming
margin even though the reaetion - 1 think - in the senate -
PC: In the academic senate -
ES: - even though - even though the - there were some very artieulate and powerful
eonservatives who were both pro-war, I think, and what I ealled the breed of “Cold
Warriors.” In other words, they smelled Communism. Not in those terms, but you know,
they felt the old manipulations were happening again that they had lived through in the
30s and 40s. And so these were not bad men, but they were eertainly, I think, very
reaetionary in this eontext. We won the vote and I remember going to SummerskilTs
offiee with a delegation of four or five - this was the end of innoeenee, that moment, in
my relationship with the power structure at San Franeiseo State. We walked into his
offiee, he was very glad to see us, until we had told him what we had done. And then this
niee, sweet man, who was like the sweet president we had had before, we thought, simply
said, “I ean’t do it.” He said, “I work for the Chaneellor and the Chaneellor has ordered
me that we will give these grades.” And we said, “But we voted.” And he said, “Sorry,
boys.” And that’s where the pieketing eame from, too, beeause we - everybody was quite
PC: Now this delegation was a faculty delegation?
ES: Faculty from the aeademie senate simply to report to him the aetion that we had taken
PC: Could you possibly remember the names of who these people were with you?
ES: Jules Grossman, who is dead now who was a psyehologist. I don’t remember whether
Art was there. He was very active in the Senate at that time. I have a feeling that
McClatchy and a man named Richard [Axion] who you will run into, were there.
PC: So then the president says, no, we’re going to do this anyway -
ES: Yes, very apologetic, yes.
PC: - and what does the - does the union or the faculty do anything about it?
PC: Nothing at all. Was the issue then just dropped? Were there any pickets, protests,
student demonstrations or anything like that?
ES: Not that I recall.
PC: No, okay,
ES: Not part of my life. There may have been demonstrations -
PC: Okay, subsequent times maybe in other - other things,
PC: Again, as we come into national issues on the campus, the next thing that I - comes
to my reading, and maybe there’s something I’m leaving out, would be when the
black students begin to demand a Black Studies program. There’s an attack on the
editor of the student newspaper -
ES: Oh, oh - wait a minute -
PC: Oh, are we jumping too far ahead?
ES: Yes, that’s too far.
ES: That’s too far.
PC: Bring me back,
ES: You remember I talked to you a little and said there was this wonderful program which
we called the Experimental College, and it was not only based on the campus, it was -
much of the work led by people such as Roger Alvarado, who comes most to mind, and
the whole student body government at that time with people who were also involved in
the Experimental College. It was community based. They were doing a lot of tutorial
programs and also trying to attract third-world, as they called them then - third-world
students to the campus. And they were indeed very, very - some of them, skilled
organizers. A man named Jack Alexis, who I believe came from Martinique, Roger -
others who later became prominent student strike leaders. But they started as deeply
involved in education, very bright people, and full of rhetorical charm, as well.
They got on their own with only the minimal connection with a faculty person, that being
Ered Thalheimer, who’s still around, a professor of Sociology, was their advisor, with
what I believe was close to a million-dollar Carnegie grant to continue this recruiting
which would be focused mainly towards Black and Chicano. Asian came in a little bit
later. And not to go through all, Ered could do that better for you, the problems - the
academic vice-president at the time, a man named Donald Garvey, and the power
structures, actually refused to allow these students to accept this grant. This we are
talking the spring of ‘68. What - the reasoning was that if the grant came, it had to go
through the normal foundation and be run by - everything had to be signed off by the
administration. And that was an anathema to where these students were coming from.
And as the negotiations wore on, finally the Carnegie said, “To hell with it,” and they lost
the grant. And that was the beginning. That was fury. That was anger. And so in May
of ’68 -
PC: You’re sure it was ‘68? Is it possible ‘67? The strike, remember, is ’68 - the fall of
‘68 to vote,
ES: This is the spring of ‘68. What we are leaving out - the reason you’re in trouble, you’re
leaving - we’re leaving out the fall of ‘67. In the fall of ‘67, we’re not - it was not the
Black Studies issue that the students were furious about in - because the Carnegie grant
hadn’t even, I believe, really come up then. I believe it was connected more with war
protest. There was some issue about - I’m going to stand corrected. There was a Black
Studies issue. It was an issue about the appointment of Nathan Hare. There was a certain
amount of argument about that. But the demonstration that brought the police onto the
campus, which was the issue where Summerskill got into - into great trouble with the
trustees because he did not condone the police on campus and not use them. That was
not totally a Black Studies issue. It was peripheral, I think -
PC: Okay, I understand that now.
ES: Okay. But what happened in May of ‘68 was reeursive to the strike beeause, filled with
anger at what was happening, the students held a sit-in in the administration building
whieh went on for days, as you may reeall. And that was the famous departure of
Summerskill to Ethiopia at the key moment.
Now, I was privy to all of this beeause although my union aetivities had gotten me into
major trouble with the aeademie senate in the fall of - the spring. I’m sorry, of ‘67, where
the union people had come to me as ex-president, and Sperling and his right-hand man.
Bud Hutchinson, who was the economist at San Erancisco State, came to me and pointed
out that our own promotions committee had sequestered $60,000.00 that could have gone
for promotions and not used it. And this was a scandal. And so I was in line to become
vice-chair of the academic senate. By that time I was their obvious leader, second to the
psychologist. Walker Beatty. And the week before we would have the election, we got
the report from the promotions committee and I played the left version of Joe McCarthy
and I said, “Where’s the $60,000.00?” And they didn’t know what I was talking about.
We passed resolution after resolution condemning on the next day.
Mr. Garrity, the vice-president, called me in and I brought Hutchinson and he had his
guru there, and I learned then the difference between an economist and an accountant.
And I was wrong. And so at the meeting, when we were to have the elections, I had to
apologize. And then I ran, because the union told me to, for every office from chair of
the senate down to - 1 lost them all, you know. But faculty memories are very short, and
the guy who was elected, Erank Sheehan, became appointed an associate vice-president
in September and they elected me vice-chair.
And so, with Walker Beatty, who gave me, after the year was over, an awful year, that
little statue of Don Quixote at the very end because that’s what we were doing all the
time. That - that was the year that culminated in the sit-ins in the entrapment of all the
deans in our - in a room with students pounding on them. This is what most of them
remember of the horror of San Erancisco State. And with Beatty and myself, the only
two who could mediate between them - because the dean would talk to us because we
were quasi legitimate, and the students would talk to us because we were very committed
to their cause and to their side. And that’s - as you may recall from your reading, that all
ended in SummerskilTs departure.
Now he had resigned earlier in the year, his resignation to take place at the end of the
year over the fact that the trustees had really pilloried him in public and at the meetings
and so on over this - his refusal to use the police. We had a meeting and this was a union
- what little was left of it, did say, well, we will have picket signs at this meeting saying
“Save Summerskill,” [unintelligible] at Sonoma State - trustee’s meeting. But mostly I
was - as a campus, nobody was interested in the union as sueh then. We were - the
aeademic senate was the play field. I think I was still on the exeeutive eommittee of the
union, but that was all.
When Summerskill announeed his resignation to eome, the faculty then elected a
presidential seareh eommittee. And actually Frank Sheehan, the man who had defeated
me for viee-ehair, was on it. A - 1 forget the entire eommittee now, ah, Dwight Newell,
who was Dean of Edueation - it was mostly administrators. One of them will eome to me
- oh, Irvin Whittaker, who was the undergraduate dean. And a representative from the
left and a representative from the right. By this time, a right-wing had formed, and they
had given themselves a name that I’m bloeking on - the Faeulty Renaissanee. And they
were mostly from Scienee, some from Business, and they were basieally - felt that they
eould not speak the way we eould speak in the interminable faculty meetings that we
were having then where Solomon and Knapp and Williams - 1 mean, we were very
vehement, we were very rhetorieal.
So Hayakawa, who, by that time, was - he never knew what his polities were, but he
loved what they were saying, and so he beeame their gun, as it were, and loved it. And -
beeause his eareer had been totally in the doldrums there for a number of years. The
English Department had repudiated him, he was working half-time, mostly at night. He
felt that he was mueh dishonored among people who should have paid attention. So he
was elected to the committee from the right, and I was eleeted from the left, so that, yeah,
I was a big guy in those days.
PC: So you were on the presidential search committee -
ES: Oh, yes, I was. And we had all - as a eondition of being on that eommittee, we had taken
an oath that none of us, of eourse, would be eandidates. That was logieal -
PC: This was a formal oath you -
ES: Well, yes, we wrote it out and it was an agreement, you know, yes.
So we were busily engaged in doing our work when the sit-in took plaee, and
Summerskill, who was supposed to stay until we finished our work, whieh was going to
take a year, simply left. We were left, then, in the position of being the only game in
town, working the Chancellor, Dumke who hated this school because he had such a
wretched time as president there, to piek an aeting president. And we decided that there
were three old-time faeulty members who were appropriate. The most appropriate in our
minds was a man named Bob Thorton, who was a blaek man. You see, we knew what
we were thinking of. But he was an older man. I think he would have been maybe okay.
He was the former dean of the school Science. A man named Elvin [Monasat], a
historian who was in Europe at the time. We had to wire him. And Robert Smith, who
had been at one time - ran a sehool of edueation. I think that was before they had the title
of “dean.” But had - was a most prominent and very respeeted faeulty person.
And I remember it was during the darkest moments, I think it was when the poliee were
aetually elearing the building - they did finally elear that building - that we met in
somebody’s van and offered the job to Smith beeause Dumke said he wouldn’t aeeept
Thorton beeause he was too old. And Smith, said, “No, I won’t take it as aeting
president. You got to make me president for two years.” He being an old-line bureauerat
knew that you - the salary you get for any two-year period is what you retire on. I didn’t
know that was what was motivating him at that moment. We were under the gun. If we
didn’t do this, who knew what was going to happen to us. So we gave him the job. And
then went baek to work and forgot about, in a sense, being on the eommittee. I’ll piek up
on that eommittee later.
PC: Yes. There’s one other issue that comes up in the spring of ‘68 in the AFT and this
has to do with teaching reductions. The idea of cutting down to a nine-credit
ES: No issue.
PC: No issue at all?
ES: Yeah - well - blather. We knew we weren’t going to get anywhere with that. We’re still
PC: Still doing what?
ES: Making an issue about a nine-unit load. We haven’t got there.
PC: Some departments have [unintelligihle] -
ES: They’re adjusting the 12-unit load and they’re doing it the way I would like to do it
through manipulation of figures. But, no, they do not have a nine-unit load. What they
have is four-unit - three four-unit eourses and they are hiding that fourth unit. We are a
12-unit and legally 15 units with one unit - you know, one - seminar.
PC: Right. But basically you’re saying this was not a significant issue at that time on -
ES: Yes. Beeause we knew we weren’t going to get anywhere. Oh, yeah, we had meetings
and we talked about it, but -
PC: Okay, Is it possible, then - okay, that you have - 1 was going to ask you if you could
summarize the mood so - before the academic year of 1968, ‘69 begins,
ES: Yes. The aeademic mood was one of anger, eonfusion, bitterness, sense of betrayal,
okay. I would say with the exception of Thalheimer? and myself, and a few key
administrators like Garrity and his team, and a lot of these students I talked about,
nobody knew what the real - in my mind, this is my view - of what the real issue was vis-
a-vis Black Studies. This was never a public issue. But certainly the key issue was what
I had felt had come up previously. We did not have control of the campus. That the
faculty which thought that administrators worked for us really were learning that they
were a mandarin group who worked for the Chancellor and the trustees, and this was part
of the anger. There was real disappointment in that sense. We thought we were all part -
different levels of the team, we knew that that was not the case.
Secondly, we had a group, a large group I would say - the student body then was about
sixteen thousand. I would say probably there were two to four hundred deeply political
left-wing students, and I am not talking, in this case, about liberals. I mean these were -
these were radicals, they were Maoists, they were Trotskyists, they were - yes, some of
them were people that came out of the FSM and that context. Some of them were part of
the National Student Association approach with, you know, Hayden and the [Port
Huron], but there was - what was the “P”, the first part of the acronym, but I can’t
PC: PLE - PLP -
ES: Yes, PLP - of labor, you know, and so on. And - plus, then, these people that were
moving fast to the hard left, activist left from the - leftovers of the Experimental College,
plus a lot of people who were rising among the black students and very able leaders. So
that I would say there another two to three thousand students who immediately grasped
their own opposition to the war and to the way things were going in America at that time
who were available to march, to sit-in, to really take chances with police.
The night before the sit-in, the night when Terry Hallinan got clubbed by the cop and so
on, ah, there was a mob scene. And what you’ve got to understand about the mood on
the campus - well, you do understand it is why you are what you are now, I suppose, and
not in the academy, that whatever their politics may be as far as presidential or
international matters or theoretical matters may be concerned, the faculty by their very
nature are conservative. They want things to be the same. They’ve never been officially
offended by the nature of the institution to take any of the roads out of it, so that there
was fear. This sitting in in an administration building, the use of police on the campus,
this was not anything that they had - had bargained for. And whereas the really
progressive members of the faculty, most of whom were - that little group of maybe a
100 who still retained their dues in the AFT, were not bothered by this partieularly. This
was kind of what one expeeted to happen in Ameriea at this time, and better to be where
the aetion is than not to be. But that was not the mood. That was not the prevailing
Peter, what you have to understand in all these events that took plaee over the next year
of our lives, I never had one moment on that eampus of fear. There was upset in that
PC: Between - now you’re talking about ‘67, ‘68, the year before the strike?
ES: And the year of the strike. This was for many of us. I’m antieipating a little of - eertainly
for me -
[End of Tape 1- Side 2(B)]
[Begin Tape 2 - Side 2 (A)]
ES: - the world where people aetually - like the ones I read about, in the eourse I gave, in the
literature of the 1930s, here it was back again. And here was a chance to do what I
hadn’t been able to do at Ohio State, maybe actually to make some institutional change,
you know. So this was - it was very exciting. And I think that was part of a mood of a
very, you know, limited group of us. But mostly the mood was, I would say, confusion
because this was not what people came to San Erancisco State for. And what one
discovered was that many of those people who aesthetically or as far as their particular
academic programs were concerned, would be considered by the national organizations
or the scholars who would train them to be very radical, not in the sense that they were
able to deal with this sort of thing.
PC: Okay, so we come to the fall of ‘68, Still the strike is a couple of months away.
There are two issues that affect faculty directly, at least the way Robert Smith
writes about it. One involves faculty layoff talk for this following spring, which
maybe we should ask, start with that. Do you recall that being a factor in anything
in your -
PC: - political imagination?
ES: No. Not at all.
PC: And the second one has to do with the suspension of George Murray. So maybe you
could tell me what you know about that.
ES: Well, George, who is now a middle-elass minister - George at that time was a big, tough,
bearded, angry, artieulate blaek man. The nightmare figure. He was not a leader of the
BSU. He was a soldier in the ranks, as it were, but George was a populist rhetorieian,
and he beeame kind of their spokesperson. He was not one of those who was on the
eentral eommittee. [laughing] He was, among other things - George was a graduate
student, and George was in the English Department. George was on the staff. This is
very important in the split that later eame in the department. And George made a lot of
noise. And George talked - by this time. Smith was - was totally embattled. He did not
know what to do about these kinds of demands and pressures on him. He had a right-
hand as an assistant, DeVere Pentony who was Dean of the Sehool of Behavior and
Soeial Seienees and wore two hats. He also was - had title, presidential assistant. And
they - when the Murray ease eame up and I do remember a moment where we - the
delegation met with him.
PC: Delegation of what?
ES: A delegation of, this time, an amorphous group, mostly out of the Senate of the left-wing
faeulty from the Senate. The Senate was, at that time, in September and Oetober, still the
only show. Many meetings - the manuseript I’ll give is - 1 write about that. I seemed to
be doing nothing but going to meetings. And I was not the one who had the major
eontaet, aetually, with the blaek students. There was a man named Stuart Eoomis who
had been working with drug rehabilitation. Other people like that would make the
eontaets so we would end up in houses somewhere in the Haight, you know, trying to do
these things. And most of these people were white. I happened to be rather elose to the
people in Ethnie Studies beeause I was viee-ehair of the Senate when Nathan Hare eame
to the eampus. I was one of the few people who had been a elose friend of Juan
Martinez, the man who had preeeded him as head of the Ethnie Studies operation. It
wasn’t a sehool of anything at that time. And I befriended Nathan. Maybe not the wisest
move of my life, but I found him charming and charismatic, and also I was obviously in a
form of shall we say “blackophelia,” as we all were. They were colorful people and we
felt that, gee, they like us though we’re white, so that must mean that we’re really good.
You know, I went through all that. We’ve all been there.
And we went to Smith and he was furious at us. He said, “You are the people -” me,
particularly - “who I was counting on to back me. I am trying, you know, to find
solutions to all of this. And I said, “Bob, there are solutions, but they have got to be -
you’ve got to listen to what these students are saying.” And so we had a public falling
out at that moment. The Murray issue, of course, was that he had said bring guns, you
know, on campus, and of course later whether planted or not, the cops had moved in and
caught him with a gun on his car.
Smith went to the wall on the Murray issue, I will say that, beeause the teaehers - well,
really, the Pressman Comp program, as it were, supported Murray, you see. And so there
was some - and so the English Department. Oh, we had awful meetings, of course, when
we would argue this point. But pretty much we tried to make the point, as we tried often,
that language is different from action. And so this led to the famous convocation that’s -
[Smith] writes about and, yes, I was on the stage during that with him, and yes, he did
make a most unfortunate speech where he did call himself a social democrat, not
knowing with these political kids what that — connotations of that term. He had no idea.
He was a babe in the woods in this business. And he came across really like the
paternalistic colonel in the white house and talking to the slaves. I mean, that’s the way -
the whole thing was a disaster. And I had helped as one of the Senate. I guess I was
closest - 1 was on Executive Committee, I guess, at that time - leaders to set that up - that
whole thing, and it was - it was a disaster.
And so that - while one liked Smith, one had no respect for him. I had less respect than
the others because I remembered - and I told them on the spot - how he manipulated us.
We didn’t want him to be permanent president. We wanted him to be acting president
and to be looking for a president. He had conned us. He had the cards. And I felt no
sympathy whatsoever for this guy. Everybody else did. Poor Bob. He just volunteered
to help. Bullshit. That’s why that book is. ..trash.
PC: Interesting. Very interesting.
So where did you stand on the student strike which - you know, which evolves out of
this? The failure of Smith to, you know, reach an accommodation.
ES: Yes. I was - 1 guess, from an observer point of view because I had no role whatsoever
except being someone on the Academic Senate to where — I had always worked well
with the black students, Jimmy Garrity before. Jimmy disappeared the minute the strike
came, of course, because I have always thought he was an FBI plant. But he was very
good. We worked beautifully together. We were a team. I liked these kids. And I was
totally in support. But, again, I was an observer. And when -
PC: Did they come to you for advice? I mean, were you at any point did they solicit your
opinions about decisions?
ES: They came mostly to Fred Thalheimer. And I was Fred’s friend and so they would come
to me, too. I was known - they would sort of team us, you and Fred. They came to me
totally for advice on how to deal with the Academic Senate, yes. But mostly it was
practical meetings, hanging out with people as equals. You see, that’s the hard thing for
people to remember, and it’s the hard - it was hard very much during the strike period,
and it is hard in the sense of history.
And you’ve just jogged my memory. That was the most attractive aspect of it. I felt I
was back with the enlisted guys again. I did not feel that I was someone who was to
advise them, nor did they feel that they wanted advice. Certainly, the white radicals
didn’t want advice. They just wanted to kick ass. The third-world leaders felt that they
were in charge of what was going on. So, no is the answer. They did not come to me for
advice. We had a lot of companionship and we had a lot of shared discussions.
PC: You were 35 around this time of age - years of age, right?
ES: Alas - alas, I was 40.
PC: You were 40 -
ES: 40.. .28...
PC: Right, okay. So, I mean you weren’t exactly a hig brother to them. You were
suhstantially older, I would think -
ES: I was substantially older, but I think for many of us of my age, this was a midlife crisis in
some ways. This was absolutely my chance to be a kid again without responsibility. My
wife - I’ve been married 37 years, who is, like all Jewish wives, paranoid. I - and we had
two little kids at home - she supported me absolutely one hundred percent through this
entire thing. There was never any question - we lived in a little house in the Sunset and I
would often be, you know, going - shuttle back and forth because I wanted to see the kids
and then get back to the action and so on - there was never a moment when I had any
problem at home. That’s something that will come up when we discuss. Marriages
broke up, you know. Things went - the fact is, of course, that she, at that time, just
started on Kaiser, so it was the first time she had an income and we had money coming
in. But we were not dependent on my salary, and I know that always made me -
PC: You know - you know what -
ES: That made things easier for me -
PC: I mean psychologically also?
ES: Yeah. Also, I had a rich father, and I never just worried about - and this is the one thing -
reason I’ll be glad to rewrite that manuscript, it’s the one thing that I feel ashamed of I
was very hard, as we came down the line towards the strike, on my colleagues who were
pleading mortgages and children and school and the future and - and many of them after
all - 1 didn’t know the Depression really, right? But they did and they were scared. And
I could not accept that. And that was really - that was a kind of elitist and rieh boy’s,
spoiled kid’s reaction.
PC: Interesting, Now, okay, what about your colleagues? Do you recall being involved
in confrontations defending the student’s strike or -
ES: This is a point of major interest. I was always involved in these on the university-wide
basis in the previous year as well. The business of poliee, after all, had to do with
students. We had a famous faeulty meeting - there were two famous faculty meetings.
One was my greatest moment and one was my darkest moment. The greatest moment
eame when Hayakawa and I debated the use of poliee on eampus and we had 700 people
and faeulty in that room. And he was not at his best. He was rather dull and ploddy in
his defense. And I was really good. I was quite brilliant. And we won the vote hands
down. And then we all went off in triumph and had, you know, a beer, 10 or 12 of us.
Hayakawa snuek out the baek door and met with the press and gave them his statements
and it was all over the paper. And that was my - also a learning experienee, to use the
phrase for me.
The seeond meeting, and a meeting that was extremely important - this was also in - in
the winter, I think, of ‘68 when they were still on that poliee issue, and this was also a
publie faculty meeting. And the union met without - 1 wasn’t part of the leadership of the
union at that time - seven or eight people at Bierman’s house. And Bierman called me at
about 1 1:30 the night before the faeulty meeting and said, “We have made a deeision,” he
said. Like I’m in the party again. Where I’ve never been, but, I mean, I felt this was -
this was - eould be my father-in-law. “We made a decision and we are all going to resign
from the Senate,” he said, “when - unless the vote goes to support the issue that the
president should never use poliee on eampus.” And he said, “Now Wally Beatty, who’s
ehair of the Senate, is ehairing the meeting so he ean’t be the first to resign. So if the
vote doesn’t go properly,” he said, “you will get up and announee your resignation. And
then Herbie Williams and then me and then -”, you know, he went down the list of people
who were going to get up after me.
So we had the meeting, made the speeeh, the vote went against us. Yes, I did, Peter.
What a fool! I got up and I said, “My eonseienee will not allow me to - therefore, I
resign as viee-ehair of the Aeademie Senate.” That was all. Nobody got up. Nobody
spoke. Nobody did anything. The meeting was over.
ES: Really. And as I walked out - 1 walked out with dear old Herb Williams, and all he eould
say to me was, “Well, I wish it was baseball season.” And I said, “Why is that?” And he
said, ‘“Cause then I could talk to you about baseball,” and he walked away. And I went
back to my office and the Senate had their meeting. Well, they were pretty upset about
this, the Senate was, of these guys who had betrayed me. So they kept sending
messengers to me, “Oh, come back, Eric,” and so, and I said, “Fuck it.” And finally
Beatty refused to aeeept my resignation because it wasn’t in writing, and they said,
“Come on, eome on.” So I eame baek. And I was useless as a politieal force on the
Senate after that beeause every time I spoke on any issue, one of the guys, Dan Farmer,
who was from PE, would say, “Point of order. I would like to know the status of this
person. I remember hearing him resign from this group,” you know, and so forth and so
PC: How do you account for that? I mean, for what happened? That sounds like a
ES: Yeah, it was betrayal. They were chieken shit. They really betrayed, whieh is exaetly
why I told you that my version of events would be different from Art’s. I’m sure this
isn’t even in his memory any more.
PC: He did ask me to ask you about a resignation of the Academic Senate, but I didn’t -
ES: Wrong again -
PC: - you know, but he didn’t explain why -
ES: - okay, well, that’s why. All right. Now Art and I - can I do a little -
PC: Please feel free.
ES: I learned a great deal from Art Bierman. He is the brightest - and at that time he was a
kind of idol figure. He was not only smart and quiek and witty and handsome but, boy,
was he a master of rhetorie on the Aeademie Senate. But I notieed that Art had a quality
that when he would win - and he won every debate and he won a great many votes, and
he’d knife the person, one more twist. And he - 1 said, “That’s a role model I want to
avoid.” And so we were very similar - he’s not Jewish by the way. He should be, but he
isn’t. We were very similar in many ways, but I always retained the fact that if you’re
going to be funny, don’t be funny at the expense of someone in publie. And — So I was
different in public meetings than he was.
Because in the fall, while the George Murray issue is going on, I was, as I was to be all
that year, in demand everywhere. I had to be in the Senate, I had to be at meetings of
sometimes in the Central Committee, the students wanted me there. I had to be outside
when events were going on outside, and so forth and so on. I never went to the Sehool of
Humanities meetings where most of the rhetorie about George Murray took place. Whieh
made a major difference, I think, because at those meetings was a man named Frank
Dollard, who was a member of the department, and Dollard, remember, was the hit man
for Hayakawa. And most of the junior faculty who we lost to the English Department
was simply - it’s coincidental because Dollard was there to hear them, you see? So, no, I
didn’t really take part in the Murray issue. Which was probably just as well because I
thought George was crazy. I really couldn’t be mad at him -
PC: Murray, Oh, okay.
During this period, when - this is now the student strike is out there, the faculty is
dealing with this prohlem -
ES: Is this the time when the police were coming every day?
ES: Yeah, okay -
PC: That’s what I think we’re talking about after the strike,
ES: Well, you’re talking about Hayakawa then. No, you’re -
PC: Well, no. The student strike is before Hayakawa. It starts a few weeks before then,
ES: The police - yes, but they were marching, but there were no police.
PC: Okay, I didn’t know that. Okay, that’s clarifying. My question was, did you have
any access or were the faculty people you knew about who did have access to
administration people through kind of back channels or informal - you know, was
there a real break between the administration and faculty, or were there ways of
bridging that gap?
ES: I would say I had no access and none of us did. Others had access. The people who were
trying to keep the thing going and were so appalled. The [McGlotches and the Axins?]
and those people. And many of - 1 don’t think the far right, the Renaissance Group had
much access, and I don’t think we had any access. Garrity and I were enemies. He was
the vice-president who really ran the operation. Smith, I have already described. The
other administrators, all of whom I knew and some of whom I served with - had served
with on thi s select committee and so on. No, we had no time. We were out there, my
friends and I, sort of - the action was taking place outside and we weren’t inside. And
they were all inside in that building. And it was a really - it was almost a geographical
distance between us.
PC: You - okay, now, also from your description of this AFT situation, it’s not that
different, I mean there was an inside group -
ES: Yeah, but they’re a tiny group, and we didn’t think there was a union.
ES: Okay. I was out of that completely.
PC: But you didn’t see any - 1 mean, if Bierman was using the strike to huild AFT, you
weren’t aware of this sort of -
ES: We weren’t aware of anything until we started to have that first meeting at the church.
PC: Okay, Tell me about the first meeting at the church,
ES: Well, no. I’ve got to tell you -
PC: Okay, go on. Sorry -
ES: - I’m going to do a little chronology.
PC: Please, okay,
ES: Yes. The chronology was that the trustees bounced Smith. Hayakawa has had his
conversation with Reagan. I am sitting, still, in the little house in the Sunset, and I get a
phone call from a black administrator, a minor administrator. I knew the minor
administrators who were this type, obviously. It was - the name’s gone now. He later
became a political figure in San Erancisco. Calls me. Only time I’ve ever had a -
somebody break in on a conversation. I was on the phone with my wife and the operator
broke in and he said, “Hayakawa has just been appointed president.” He said, “He’s
holding a press conference, get there.” And I was there in 15 minutes. I got - walked
into the press conference. He was babbling about Mahalia Jackson and all the wonderful
things he was going to do. And I said, “Hey, Tom,” I said, “What about the agreement
we all made on the committee not to be part of the president.” He looked at me and he
said, “Em president.” He said, “You can take your agreements and do what you want
And so that Hayakawa was president meant, as far as I was coneerned, and most of us
were eoneerned, no lines of eommunieation would ever be open beeause this was an
ethieal - 1 will talk about that, raeism probably implied in that, perhaps - perhaps later.
So Hayakawa beeame president. The students then brought a certain amount of possibly
planned - these plans they rarely shared with me, but certainly also anarchic violence into
the - the daily, almost running of the bulls. And that was the most horrific. That no one
could deal with. It was ritual. You know, five hundred thousand cops, you know, the
mounted police, the student rally always starting at the same place at the speaker’s
platform and then the march and then the smashing of the windows or what have you of
the - you know, you’ve read about that. And then the charges of the cops, sometimes off
the campus and say we’re trying to run, sometimes right in the middle of the thing. And,
yes, I was there for every moment of that. My pals, Fred, Hank and I, hundred - there
well around 30, 40 of us, and - running a lot. I mean, I wasn’t going to get my head beat
in. Did I partake? I was a speaker, I suppose, five or six times, yes.
PC: Speaking to the students?
ES: Speaking to the students.
PC: And what did you say? What was the content -
ES: The content was, “You are right. Do not give in. There has to be some way that people
will listen,” and, yeah - in fact, my most famous moment was a time of considerable
volatility in which, indeed, one could not use the speaker’s platform because the police
were already moving and charging and I was held up by two gigantic black students,
whom I do not know or remember. And on top of the crowd I made an address. The
reason I remember that so well is the next day I had to fly to Austin, Texas where I was
being offered the job of chair of the English Department. People wanted to get me the
hell out of - out of here, the establishment. And it was a long day. John Silver was the
one who was interviewing me. It was a hot day. And it ended with, God, we’d forgotten
to introduce you to the senior faculty who were all in a room watching television. And I
walked in and I sat down with these men and watched myself on the fucking T.V.
ES: Anyway, that’s the context in which that first union meeting was held.
PC: Did you hear Hayakawa’s famous speech on racism that, I think - was it to the
Academic Senate possibly? I know the faculty convocation that was called before he
was appointed president, there was, I think. Smith had encouraged convocations or
whatever they called it, and Hayakawa did his famous speech about racism,
ES: Yeah, yes.
PC: Do you have any - does that mean anything to you?
ES: No, it was absurd. By that time I considered him as one of the really marked figures that
I had encountered in the educational world.
PC: Had you had any contact with him before this that would noteworthy?
ES: No - oh, yeah, we were on the committee together.
PC: Oh, right -
ES: That was when I first knew him. No, when I came here, he was in - almost in absenture
as far as the department. In fact, there was a running gag. Every year at the chair’s first
cocktail party, I would be introduced to Hayakawa, and he would never remember each
from one year to the next that he had ever been introduced to me before. Until I became
vice-chair of the Senate and then I knew - 1 used to say that’s why I really made it
because some guy came up to me and said, “Eric, Tom Hayakawa would like to meet
you.” He could not remember me. No, he had no idea. All Jews looked alike to him.
After there is an anecdote. When I wrote a piece for Mother Jones, I think - or the New
Yorker magazine - 1 think it was Mother Jones about this - my relationship with
Hayakawa. I’ve got it, by the way, somewhere. But I did have a meeting with him after
the strike. But that’s not -
PC: Okay, well, we’re jumping.
Okay, so. Smith resigns, Hayakawa’s appointed. The campus is, you know, falling
apart. All of this stuff is going on. When do you start thinking about strike, faculty
strike? Or don’t you?
ES: Never entered my mind.
ES: That’s - that’s the Bierman world, I guess, that we’re - we’re dealing with. It never
entered my mind. I went, as a rank-and-file person to a meeting that was called in the -
whatever the church was right across from the campus, and clearly Art and Peter and Jess
Ritter and the others who were on the - the Executive Committee, Herb Williams, had
thought this out, and Art made the presentation. Gary Marker was made, as well, the
president. And, yes, terrifie. Beeause the idea, whieh was an idea that made absolute
sense to me, you know, was that ours would be a different kind of strike. It would not be
this - this on the eampus. It would be a desire, really, to bring this to an end. And this is
the God’s truth. Whatever I later said, and I said everything, I defended the BSU’s 12
points. I went out and talked to the oil workers out in Tina’s saying, yes, blaek
eeonomies is a true and honored - should be an honored diseipline and so on. I talked to
George Johns in the Labor Couneil and told them absolutely this is a strike about wages,
and that’s where we brought in the business about teaehing load and so on. We used to
tell the eops in the morning we’re just working elass like you. I told Louis Heilbron then
the trustee’s eommittee, that really this is about faeulty governanee, whieh were the
points, you know, that we had - we had made.
It was about one thing. We were deeply eoneemed that there was going to be bloodshed
and that this eould not go on with these seared, violent - 1 eould show you a pieture if I
got up, of - somewhere in one of those books, of the moment in Oetober or whenever it
was, November, when I’ve led a full on - beeause students eame running to me and said
you’ve got to do something, the poliee are going to shoot. Eight or ten eops had gotten
themselves trapped between the psyeh building and the edueation building by about 500
furious students. And there was a little [unintelligible] of the AFT at that moment.
Pieket line, Kay Boyle, and about six or seven others. They were all there was, so I took
them and I said, “Follow me.” This was the stupidest moment in my whole life. And
with all students eheering, “Hey!” you know, we led them down there. And then I looked
where I was going, and I was going into this absolute vortex of human beings. And they
were, everyone was elapping as we marehed along. And I grabbed a guy - and Aelstyn
one of the younger brothers of [unintelligible] - 1 said, “Hey, [Kayses] you want to walk
with me. And he did -
[End of Tape 2 -Side 2 (A)]
[Begin Tape 2 - Side 2 (B)]
PC: - five hundred students...
ES: Yep. And our eoming in made a passage and the poliee got out, and I said at that
moment to myself, “You know, I almost got killed here. But more than that, if this had
started, there eould have been 40 people killed,” beeause these eops, they were young,
they were seared to death. They did not know - they didn’t know these students. You
see, we knew that these students weren’t going to kill them. But they had no idea of that.
They looked - you remember the dress eode in those days, army fatigues, beards down to
there, throats, wild eyes, they were doped out and, Geez, they did look seary. And some
of them, Benny Stuart, made - just, oh, never spoke. Jerry Bernardo, they were the
nightmare blaek people of your ehildhood, you know. A judgment, I don’t know, they
were not. But they were role playing and they had, you know, plenty of - they were
probably laughing later at what they were doing, but we - 1 didn’t take ‘em seriously as
threats to me. But I thought - 1 realized how the cops could.
So when the idea came out on the platform from Gering and Hart that this would be a
formal traditional strike sanctioned by the Labor Council, and that it would circle the
campus and close the campus to this kind of activity. To Don Scoble up there on the
roof, “this is an illegal rally,” and the cops generally brought in. Never a question in my
mind. Do it. So -
PC: Do you recall that meeting? I mean, besides that - the vote on that issue has been
reported as like 80 to 22,
ES: Yeah, that’d be good. That would be good. And that would also tell you the numbers we
started with, you see. I would say 50 of them were full-time faculty who were what was
left of the AFT. The rest were part-timers and so on who came to the meeting. And in
each meeting we held, subsequently, the figures grew until we got to that 400 figure
which was our - that the - when we met at the “Y” near the campus was that - the day
before we went out, was the biggest number that we ever had.
PC: At that meeting, AFT votes to record strike sanction from the Labor Council.
PC: Now do - was it - these 22 people who voted against it, I mean, what kind of
opposition were they bringing forward?
ES: Just that a strike was impossible and wrong. And that this was not the AFT they had
belonged to and joined, that that was to do with salaries and subsequently everybody who
voted against it, I think, quit. We had a lot of people quit. But we had massive numbers
of, of course, joining. Yes.
PC: And you never for a moment believed this was a legitimate labor strike?
ES: No. No. Not for what we were telling George Johns. Nor did George, as far as I know.
We haven’t looked into his papers, you know, but we had plenty of eye contact. And we
all did. I mean, we all knew. The one guy who had the hardest time with us was Victor
Van Bourg because he said, “You’re crazy. You’re suicidal. You can’t do these things.”
But he always supported us. And, you know, he’s a bull of a man. But he couldn’t
believe that we really were doing it for these reasons, and it was always hard for him.
PC: Do you think that most people were motivated for your reasons? In other words, to
ES: Yes -
PC: - the students.
ES: All. All of us, except maybe those who saw - like Art, and a couple others - may have
seen some good for the union in this, or good for themselves in this, were quickly
disabused because it was a loser from the get go.
PC: Yes, I mean, Art would have argued that this was an opening wedge, mayhe, for
bargaining with the Board of Trustees, You wave your hand -
ES: Yeah, I wave my hand. No, that had nothing to do with anything. In fact, the only ones
who ever saw a trustee were the 10 of us - 11 of us who were on the negotiating
committee, and we only saw one. They sent Eouis Heilbron and a couple of others
wandered down and looked at the strike, and, no, there was no real negotiating with the
Board of Trustees. No, that may have been in Art’s head, but that was certainly never in
any - and maybe that’s what these guys who - 1 give them all honor for having planted -
because nobody was doing anything. And you’ve got to give total credit to the - the
pocket leadership of this little AET organization because everybody else was just saying,
“God, how long can this keep going!”
PC: Were there any other - what was some of the alternatives? I mean -
ES: There weren’t any alternatives.
PC: So this was actually an inspired act?
ES: When I called it a ritual, there aren’t any alternatives when the Mayans are - just come
back from the Yucatan - and, you know, sacrificing people, there are no alternatives. It
just happens. And that’s what this was beginning to feel like.
PC: So you give, you know, Bierman, Hawkins and Herb Williams and people like that
credit for -
ES: No question.
PC: Did you - were you involved in the approach to the Labor Council?
PC: No, you weren’t involved in that at all.
You seem to have been brought into the negotiating committee sometime shortly
before the strike began, but after the vote was -
ES: Yes, about eight hours.
PC: Oh, was that - was that all?
ES: This was - this was - we had had a couple of other meetings and then this was the
meeting the night before we were to go out. I think it was a Eriday and we would go out
Monday. And it was clear by that time that the negotiating committee was not radical
enough. That they were not speaking now to the 400 people who were in that room.
PC: The union jumped in about two weeks, you’re saying then, from about 100 to about
PC: And most of these were not full-time faculty?
ES: That’s right. Half, I would say, were not.
ES: Okay. And so that, ah, I did make a speech at that particular meeting on - before we took
out because they were talking about the issue which became the crucial issue, which is
the - what I have buried among my papers, of whether you could go out on strike and
continue on the payroll and to teach your classes off-campus. Remember, we had been
doing that for a while.
PC: Yes, right,
ES: And I said, “No,” I said, “you can’t do that. I mean if you’re on a strike, you withdraw
your services and you ain’t going to get paid. And we can’t - you can’t fake it.” I said,
“There are students who are, you know, gambling with their careers. You can’t go out
and say, well, yes, we’re really having a strike, but we’re not having a strike.” And I
went on and on at some point, and I got probably the best support I’ve ever gotten in any
meeting in my life. And then people rose and they said, “We are not going out unless
Solomon, Thalheimer and McGuckin,” and I guess the three of us were representing the
conscience. I do feel very good about this.
PC: Okay, What did you three have in common? Mayhe you could explain that. That
is, McGuckin, Thalheimer, yourself, who are added to the negotiating,,,
ES: Yeah, okay. Fred having in common that he’s an honest man and was perceived widely
by that. A very quiet man, by the way. That we don’t have in common. Hank, who’s
father was an old Wobbly leader. McGuckin, was the best speaking I’ve probably ever
encountered on that campus, was absolutely clear what a strike was. And I was the - the
loudmouth who had probably the widest access on the campus. I was probably, by that
time, seen as the spokesperson for the left. But what we had in common was the issue, I
think, as well.
PC: And the issue as being what?
ES: That if you go out on strike, you go out on strike and you don’t teach. And so - because
that was where the argument was. But we had - we were kind of - in our very different
ways, though, it was trust. It was a question of trust, which we never betrayed, by the
PC: Were you being approached by students along those lines prior to that meeting? I
mean, was this something -
ES: Yeah, we talked about a lot.
PC: Were - there’s the implication always that when students demanded that faculty not
teach off campus, they were also threatening faculty,
ES: Not me.
PC: Not you,
PC: Did you hear about cases of that?
PC: So it was simply a moral pressure that was put upon -
ES: Absolutely was a moral pressure. And I agreed. I mean, whoever - we didn’t have any
argument about it beeause it just - the whole thing made no sense. And it was so - so
mueh as traditional kind of liberal wishy-washy that I - we, at that time, we were way
beyond that. And I think that’s why - so they made this motion that the three of us be
added to the Exeeutive Committee. And we were. Whieh was what set up the - the really
kind of impossible situation for the three of us beeause a man named Stan Ofsevit who
had come from New York City and who was really working class - he was a social
worker - that previous September, was chosen as picket captain. And he had already, you
know, given us positions as - 1 was in a parking lot and later moved to the action -
running things from 19th and Holloway and Hank was somewhere else - the others on the
Executive Committee were not on the picket line. I mean they would come and march if
there was a moment down, you know, when we had that vote and they marched out - but,
no, no - no, they just did - it was proper. I mean, we had a headquarters, somebody had
to run the headquarters. We had a - all those meetings with the - downtown with a lot of
time spent on that. The Eabor Council had the evenings meeting when, you know, the
trustee would - but we insisted that our hearts - my study is the heart of the people, and
we were going to do that.
We got to that campus at eight o’clock in the morning. We did picket duty until about
three o’clock, when, you know, that was - everybody had drifted. We were at every
police charge at that time. We were the - you know, when it would happen, when they
would pluck kids off the line. And that was crucial because then we would come sort of
to these clean and dry people sitting in Herb Williams’ living room or Art Bierman’s
room, and the three of us would come in, covered with mud and dirt. You know it rained
every fucking day, and having been chased by cops and having been through all of this.
And, boy, we turned all those meetings around because I don’t know what they talked
about before we got there, but since some of them were clearly still getting their salaries
and others just wanted it to be over because, boy, oh, boy they wanted it to be over. And
we - we’d come in and say, “It ain’t over. And it’s getting worse and it’s getting
heavier,” and we turned - always we were turning those meetings around. Three people
turned eight people around, yeah.
PC: Now why - okay, let’s see, first of all, to what extent did you feel responsible to
settling student demands, you three - in other words, you’re added as the left wing
to this committee?
ES: Yes, absolutely. We were - from that moment on, we were constantly in touch with the
students. We were the ones - 1 talked to them, too, Gary. But the others really didn’t
totally - totally. Their strike - we - 1 felt we were in exactly the same position as
Professor [Elavapate?] was. It wasn’t their strike. They were spear carriers, very - didn’t
like it always, but they went with it. And it was the Central Committee that I remember
at one of our meetings which we held sort of a rump meetings because we were all down
at a television station being - being interviewed and - yeah, we agreed that there was
going to be one leader. When NBC eame along and said, “Okay, we’re going to do a
white paper on this strike, and we want to piek one faeulty leader beeause they pieked
Jaek Munso, you know, to be an opposer - “and we’ve deeided after looking at all of you
and listening at your meetings, we want it to be Solomon,” and everybody said, “great,”
you know. Well, I did go to the - to Roger and to Benny and Jerry and said, “This is what
they want me to do. Should I?” No, I asked for permission.
PC: From whom? Who did you -
ES: From the blaek student leaders.
PC: Oh, your student leaders?
ES: Oh, yes, I did.
PC: I see,
ES: Oh, yes, I did.
PC: And what did they say?
ES: They said, “Absolutely, go with it.”
PC: Explain your thinking. I mean, why did you go to the hlack students?
ES: Beeause it was their strike and I wasn’t going to harm it by some - what would be looked
at, some need for publieity, you know, or something like that on my part. And as it
turned out, it was a rather important proteetive deviee beeause I was there, all these at
noon at 19th and Holloway. And so were four cameramen. They followed me for 20
days, you see, during the heat of this thing. And we have hours and hours of this stuff
It’s 20 hours of tape for a 15 -minute segment. You know how that works.
PC: Yeah, right,
ES: But they were - the cops would [not] attack with all those cameras on them, ah, ‘cause
they were on me. So - 1 mean, that was no plan, of course. But that tells you how I
thought and felt about them.
PC: Did the union leadership know that you were asking students for permission?
PC: You did this without telling them?
PC: Was there any feeling that you weren’t the right guy to he the faculty spokesman?
ES: Never heard any. I never heard any. And, yeah, well, always in my life at San Erancisco
State and everywhere else people would say, “Why him?” That’s always - 1 have lived
with that. It’s because I’m so charming, Peter - [laughing]
ES: - but it was an interesting program which came out, of course, after the strike was over.
But the guy who was the producer over identified with me and, so I came out looking
very good and the other guy didn’t. He became a college president, I didn’t - yeah...
PC: And now with the Hoover Institute -
ES: You got it. But the - the - I’m going to leap forward for a moment -
ES: Okay. The strike itself went three ways. We spent a lot of time - some of us, during the
day, when we weren’t needed on the picket line or we weren’t needed for meetings, and
Art, I think, and Gary did more of this than, and Herb, than I did - talking outside to other
unions, trying to get support, trying to get people to join the picket line. And Art’s
probably told you plenty of that. That was his thing. We spent almost no time at all
talking to our fellow faculty with two exceptions for me. One was I was given
permission - this time not by the students, but by the strike leadership and told we all
worked, to go to the Senate meetings. That was awful. I mean, they’re - you know, I told
it rained the whole time. And we would come into these meetings, which were held in
the library. You know, go through the picket line, as it were, and go to the meetings, and
we were - there were six of us, seven of us, and we were the enemy. I mean, God
Almighty, you know, they were appalled. And yet they had to do some politeness with -
with us, and we wouldn’t stay very long either because we couldn’t bear these people
sitting like that.
I - Hayakawa became president and it was decided by the presidential selection
committee and the academic Senate not to accept this. And, therefore - 1 mean, he was
acting president. They couldn’t do anything about that. But they didn’t want him the
permanent president. So the search committee was reactivated. And Ted Kroeber, a
psychology professor who was on strike, was - he was the next man on the list for the
original eommittee, and so he took Hayakawa’s place. And we met steadily. There, of
course, they agreed because of Ted and me. Of the two - of the five of us, we always met
off campus, and - so there was one other thing I was doing at this time where we tried to
piek Franklin Williams, who was a New York foundation direetor, a blaek man, as
president, and where we sent him a eope list with the one blaek trustee and Willie Brown
as our three eandidates.
ES: Willie - we had a wonderful eonversation with Willie. I - ‘eause he agreed. He knew just
what was going on. Alright. So, this, then, the day, the normal day of a - of a strike for a
person like me would be you go there, you do pieket duty all morning, you talk to
everybody. It was a wonderful feeling. And I mean we never had sueh solidarity with
people. Then you had your union meetings every Sunday in whieh after we - usually the
speakers were Art and Gary and, you know. Hank and Fred and I would occasionally
talk, we lied steadily. Everything is going to be all right. We’re going to win. It’s going
to be over soon. You know, there were always students. Some student leaders there as
well, just - you know.
And the union - I’ve never known diseipline like that. These are faculty. They didn’t
believe a word of what we were saying, and they were terrified and wretehed. They stuek
in - you know, for two months. Which is a long - we got fired, as you may reeall. We
got rehired when the semester started. We got fired again. They - they went with it -
PC: You know - yeah, go on.
ES: I want to come to the end. We ean come back -
PC: Okay, yeah. Sure, absolutely, yeah.
ES: - but we’re talking about the strike. And we knew that we were getting a little bit closer
and the students were getting a little bit closer and the sitting, we were getting exhausted.
People were going baek in. The thing was withering away. We were being pushed very
hard by our lawyer. Van Bourg, very hard by [Ronald Haughton], who was the arbitrator,
and very hard by George Johns and everybody, settle, settle, settle. The students were
not ready to settle. And we knew when it eame that we were coming to a last meeting
and that it was - and at the end of February it was going to be over. That we - you know,
there were still time to get back to class, as it were, you know, we missed four weeks, and
So there was that last meeting and Fred Thalheimer, Hank McGuekin, Erie Solomon,
Nancy McDermid, the four of us, got up and made pleas that - let us - we’re going to stay
on strike, we said. You guys ean go back in, but leave us the name. You just go back in.
We will be the AFT on a strike. This was a break, you know, with the negotiating
eommittee, a break so that all the people would know they did not do that - they took the
name, the strike was over. They voted that.
And so in - what was, I think, probably my finest moment in this whole business - we had
about eight. There were a few other people that said, all right, we’re going to stay with
you, eight or ten. And we stayed on that night in that ghastly Buehanan Street Y, and we
said, “Okay, we will be - we will meet at the Ecumenieal House and make our plans in
the morning. And - five of us met at the Eeumenieal House, and by the time that meeting
was over, I think there were four of us left, the four that I mentioned. And we said,
“Well, you know, we are going to be fired and we are never going to get baek in.” And
we all said, “Yep, that’s the way it’s going to be.” And, again, I may be with symptoms
of being 40 and these other things, but it didn’t bother me in the slightest. I swear to God
it didn’t. And I remember walking aeross Holloway that morning and saying, “You
know, I think I’ll go into television.” I was watching Jim [unintelligible]. I said, “I could
do this. I could do as he eould.” And - you know, a new eareer. Ah, it makes me a little
weepy with the kids.
They came to us, the student leaders, and said, “No, no. We have voted, the Central
Committee, you go baek in. You’re more important to - we’re not going to be out long
anyway. We’re only going to be another week or so.” And they said, “You should be
baek there beeause you ean help us more from inside than if you go All right, we may
roll along, you know little buster - and, yeah, we went - we went back. And that was the
end to it. So that was just in referenee to -
PC: Okay, Well, we’ve sort of telescoped a lot of 10 weeks here and this is prohahly a
good time to stop now and pick up the story on another occasion. But I do want to
go hack and deal with some of the specific negotiating issues. You were on the
negotiating committee. What the committee did. We need to look at your
relationship to your colleagues who did not go on strike. We need to, you know,
consider matters like that -
ES: Eet me just speak to that for one moment, the relationship with the college, beeause this
is something else that was of major interest to me, and really did - did change my career
When we came baek in and when all the business then of the firings and the hasslings and
the hostile situations went on, I found one of the strangest things happened, that the
people who had the most diffieulty with me were the - the liberals. The people who were
in favor of the strike, but had not gone out and so on, beeause what we had done, of
course, was act like ids to their superegos. We had called them on their beliefs and they
were found wanting. If we hadn’t done this, they could have continued the illusion that
they were the great prince of the minority students and that they were this and they were
that. That’s point one.
Point two, the right-wing - and I think this was the case for almost all of us - we had no
trouble with. I used to hang out at the little faculty club we had, which was all old -
people from education [unintelligible] - old men. They said, “Well, you’re wrong, we
were right. But we, too, took a lot of [unintelligible] for saying that these kids are crazy
and this thing is wrong. And you took it for saying they were right.” And somehow
there was - very strange to me. And it obviously became part of my political
The second thing that happened was that, yeah, I got a lot of job offers because the
Establishment said, you know, save this man from himself and Minnesota and - to be a
dean at the founding of that SUNY purchase and to be executive director of the MLA,
and, you know -
PC: Who were the people at Minnesota that contacted you?
ES: John Clarke the chairman, and it was Jack Eevinson who tried to sell me his house and so
on. I mean - yeah. And it was to replace Eevinson who was going to Virginia. And,
yeah, I - what happened, well, I was really interested in the purchase job and I might have
taken it, but that was the year after the strike. What happened was that they decided -
people weren’t happy with Hayakawa. To have an Academic Ereedom Committee. And
this was to be a Blue Ribbon, very big guys ran for it and I was the only person on strike
who had a chance, and I got elected to that committee. It was a five-person committee.
Yeah, it was fifth in the voting, but it suddenly became clear to me that I had a
responsibility to these people that I had led out on the strike. I got my tenure because of
the State Personnel Board, you know. Those who had tenure, they said, “Stay.” It wasn’t
what the trustees wanted, you know. It wasn’t what Hayakawa and his people wanted,
but I was safe. I had my job. And I had plausibility still on that campus because it was a
big election. You know, the rabbi, Albin Eein, the - big - and we fought Hayakawa. And
that was when I had my last real meeting with him when I was told to tell him - it had
something to do with Cambodia, you know, and the Asian bombing and what have you,
and we were going to have a protest, and he said, “You can’t have a protest.” And we
said, “We are going to protest. We are going to hold a news conference.” “We,” the
Academic Ereedom Committee.
And I went in to see him. It was a late afternoon, oh, five thirty, his secretary was gone -
former CIA man with his flack had gone. New York - he was basically all alone. And I
went in to give him messages and he said, “Erie,” he said, “it’s so niee to see you.” And
we sat and talked. The man was so lonely and so wretehed and so out of it. And then I
told him what I had come for, and he said, “You [do that] and I’ll destroy you.” And he
came to the press conference. We did have it. He did very well. He took it over. But
that’s the last, really - well, we met a few times since.
And that’s why I stayed basically. And two years later they elected me chair of the
Senate and then I became vice-president. And then I went on. And so I’ve never
understood what role I play on the campus. I - 1 am the only one who survived the strike
as a person who - who could be an administrator, with the exception of Nancy
McDermid, but I was - 1 was the president’s assistant at that time, and he wanted to make
an appointment, publicly, of someone who was a woman and who had been in the strike.
I mean, because he had all of the reactionaries around. And so everybody else looked at
it - well, most people looked at it as - as a very strange moment in their lives. I looked at
it as a wonderful experience that I wouldn’t have missed for the world, and really made
my career. And I can’t cope with any of this really.
PC: Okay, Well, let’s pause here then and get together on another occasion.
[End of Tape 2 -Side 2(B)]
[End of Interview of February 7, 1992]
Labor Archives and Research Center, SFSU
Interviewer: Peter Carroll [PC]
Interviewee: Eric Solomon [ES]
Date: March 13, 1992
Subject: San Francisco State Strike 1969-1970
[Begin Tape 3 - Side 3 (A)]
PC: This is March 13, 1992. This is Peter Carroll here talking to Eric Solomon about the
San Francisco State Strike.
In our last conversation, we got up to about Christmas of 1968, the union had
sought permission from the Labor Council to strike, but the final strike vote had not
been taken. And I think where we left it was when Hayakawa closed the campus for
a three-week holiday.
PC: And at that point, there were a series of negotiating sessions. You were, by then, on
the negotiating committee, were you not?
ES: I was on the negotiating committee from the time we actually went out. My memory is
that I joined the negotiating committee the day before we actually threw the first picket
line around the campus.
PC: Now was that the informational picket line?
PC: No. The actual -
ES: Yes -
PC: - so you actually weren’t on in - you were not involved in the negotiations over
PC: Okay, Maybe you could explain why you were added - you and about two or three
other people were added to a negotiating committee in the first place?
ES: The - wait a minute. I think you’ve got - let me - let me baek up here. I think you’ve got
your timing a little off, or we’ve got our timing a little off. The - the strike started - the
aetual strike started before Christmas, before the Christmas break. The Christmas break
started, what, about the 20**^ - or 15*'’. I think that strike started in Deeember, and then
there was a - then there was the Christmas break and we went baek. And then at the end
of the - about the end of January people were fired and then - then the new semester
started and we were rehired and brought baek. But I think -
PC: Well, my information is that the AFT voted to strike on December 10th, the
information picketing, and agreed to have a strike on December 16th unless
ES: Right. Right. So, okay - so we’re talking about Deeember 16"’ -
PC: And then before - but before the strike could begin, Hayakawa called a vacation,
which sort of -
ES: It was only three days, wasn’t it?
PC: I thought it was making the Christmas holiday a week earlier,
ES: I don’t believe so.
PC: Well, okay, I mean -
ES: He might have - 1 think it was reopened. It was -
PC: Well, okay, we can check that out with the records certainly. That’s not -
ES: But I certainly remember we went out on - I’m quite sure we went out on strike before -
before Christmas. Anyway, no, the informational picket line was - was one thing. But
we then had to take a - have a meeting to take a vote to actually - to go out on strike. And
this was a meeting that was held in the Y, Stonestown YMCA. And it was - it was a
large, our group - somewhat larger than the meeting that was held in a church that
originally said, “Eet’s go and go after the strike vote,” and, you know - a sanction, rather.
At that meeting. Art Bierman and Gary Hawkins were making the presentation and they
were waffling on the issue of what it meant to go out on strike. And they said, “Well, it’s
enough just to walk the picket line, and, you know - and not to come on campus.” That
you don’t really have to teach - you can teach your classes off campus. And there were a
number of the members of the - what do they call themselves? The leadership group of
the BSU and the other - Settlement Committee - there, and they were quite appalled. And
I was quite appalled at this. And so I - 1 did make a speech and I said, “Look, either you
strike or you don’t strike. And if you strike, I never heard of a striker ever getting paid.
And this is - this is the real thing.” And they were talking also about let’s go out for three
days and then come back, because there was a rule that - you know, the three-day rule.
And I have a sense that McGuckin, Hank McGuckin, said similar things. I don’t know -
Fred Thalheimer, who’s the third person who was added, doesn’t usually speak in
crowds, and I can’t remember whether he did speak to this issue or not. Then before we
took the strike vote - it was agreed that this was the way it would be done, there was a
motion from someone on the floor, and I have no idea now who it was, that - because
there was a real feeling that this was - from - from - on this issue, that this wasn’t a
trustworthy group. And it is my sense, and - that it came from the students, that motion.
But they may have asked someone to make it. They were the ones who wanted us added
to the committee, the Central Committee -
PC: Okay, I see -
ES: - of - of the BSU. So the motion was made and it was a voice vote, as I recall. And so
that was how the three of us were added to the eight that were already on the negotiating
PC: Had you felt that kind of distrust yourself about the AFT leadership up to that
ES: Not really. Not as a group for what they were doing. I didn’t know anything about who
Art and Gary were talking to. I had my own personal sense of them as individuals. I
knew Gary as this incredibly clean-cut all-American boy who we had conned into taking
over this moribund leadership of this dead group, you know, because maybe we could get
some people who weren’t just old lefties in there. I’d have always - I figured I’d talk
about it like this, somewhat ambivalent - the others. I had no reason, in my personal
dealings with - well, a little with Herb Williams, but I mean I saw them all as pretty good
folk. There was no - no real problem. It was the fact they weren’t communicating what
they were doing, and then this - this was a bombshell, I mean, really, for people who had
read strike novels. Eet’s put it that way. To say nothing of the students who were putting
themselves in real jeopardy. To say that you were going to impress anybody by
informational picket lines, which we’d been doing - that picture that you saw, that was
taken - that was taken in November. We had been doing that kind of thing. And, so, no,
this - this was - that was what brought - but before that, no, the sense that someone - that
someone was probably really Art and Herb Williams had gotten the idea, let’s do - let’s
close the eampus. Let’s stop the violence by doing it that - that was an original. It was -
it was seen by most of us as absolutely the right thing to do.
PC: Did you feel as an elected member of this negotiating committee, I mean, this
delegation, did you - well, did you feel you were a delegation for the students, for the
striking students in any way? Did you feel that they were a constituency that you
had to report to?
PC: And did you, in fact, report?
PC: Even confidential material that might have been - you know, that maybe was best
not reported from - from not maybe - without the moral overtone, I mean -
ES: Yeah, we didn’t report personal issues. I mean when we found out earlier than the
membership did that Jess Ritter was taking his salary. He was a member of the
negotiating committee - no, we didn’t feel that kind of thing was necessary to tell. It was
gossip. But just where we were at any given time, what we knew, yeah. Yeah. Either
Ered or I would - we were very mueh in toueh with people and we would tell them, yeah.
PC: And these were - these were student leaders of - 1 mean, you went through the
ES: We went through really three people for the most part beeause they were the three
brightest and most sensitive. The man who was really in charge of their negotiation was a
man named Nesbit Crutchfield, who is still around. He is somewhere in Marin. He - he
was really a very steady, thoughtful black kid - a man. He must have been 22. The
people we admired most as they eome out of the old program, the experimental college,
was a man named Roger Alvarado, who - the strike really ruined him, but he was the
most brilliant and eharismatie leader I’ve run into in a long time. He made somebody
like Mario Savio an amateur - came to speak with erowds - and a man who I believe
came from Martinique, I’m not sure, Roger - and I believe was Mexiean in baekground
named Jack Alexis, who later was, I believe, deported. And they were the ones that we
felt comfortable with. These - these were not boys. These were men. These were - were
not crazed radicals. These were guys who seemed to know - we were all in very deep
into something, and it was not a reporting to, but it was a sense that we could hear what
they had to say, they could tell us what was really going on there the speeeh patterns in a
way and the - the immense anger of the perceived leaders, who were probably Jerry
Vamado and Benny Stewart, I was - 1 kept them kind of a little bit at a distance. I
certainly - there was no sense that I would ever tell them anything confidential that I
didn’t want, you know, to be misused. I had great faith in these other three guys.
PC: Having had the pleasure of reading your memoir of this, I - 1 want to pursue a
question about your own identity as a faculty person given the situation. I mean,
one of the things - usually people who are amhivalent about that identity were
younger people, younger than you at that time. The 20 and 30-year-old - 20s and
30s-year old faculty people - who found a kind of community with students to be
much more powerful and meaningful than with their colleagues. Is that a fair
statement for you?
ES: No, not really. I think two things happened to me. I’ve always been eomfortable with
students, and these students were - were not kids. I felt very little eommunity with some
of the white student leaders, John Levin and people like that, I felt that they - they were
probably too rigidly doetrinaire and some of them on the make. I felt in no way did - did
I feel what I saw a lot of other people feeling at that time, that this was a way of
reeapturing one’s student or graduate student identity or - 1 mean, there were a lot of guys
that, you know, dug up their old Navy wateh cap and their jackets - their pea jaekets and
so on. I mean, it was like, God, I got this thing ealled a Ph.D., but I’m still a man and so
on. No, there was none of that feeling.
What there was for me was an intense feeling of eamaraderie with a eollege that was
showing aspeets of themselves, mostly aspeets that had linked them to working elass.
And I’m a middle elass boy myself, and I felt that somebody who was, at the time,
planning a book on the 1930s with a chapter on the Spanish Civil War literature, that this
was - this was just wonderful. But it wasn’t - it wasn’t a - 1 know I was just 40. It was
not a question for - for my lost youth. I don’t think it was a midlife erisis, I really don’t.
PC: Well, I didn’t mean it even as a midlife crisis, but as an affinity, that you came to
feel more comfortable with - with these outspoken graduate students than more so
than - you know, all the colleagues,
ES: Well, yeah, I - 1 am rather crude in my speeeh so that I was not put off by the way they
talked. It is true that the - the humor that we generated in - even in among - perhaps
mostly in the darker moments, yeah, this was terrifie. I enjoyed - the pleasure of their
eompany was - was real. And, frankly, the people like Dan Ofsevit who was a street guy,
a soeial worker from New York who performed with the pieket eaptain, guys like this I
felt more eomfortable with, too. Beeause we were in something that was really not a
middle elass operation, and I felt more eomfortable with the people who understood, I
guess, what - what it was - what it was up to. My immediate aeademie eolleagues were,
many of them, very nervous about what was going on, and I was very impatient with that.
I thought, “Look, we’re in something that will not stand up against the scrutiny of the
kind of reports we write for faeulty meetings, and we’ve got to get out of that mindset.”
And two of my best friends were both in the Psyeh Department at [Ed Grover and Walt
Coppoek] and I remember I felt they were my own superegos - they were worried about -
well, when did the Blaek Student Union exactly say that they would consider looking
again at their - you know, that kind of thing, their demand. And I felt that they - they
were asking us to respond in a battlefield situation the way you would back at the war
college. And it - so that, yeah, I got impatient. I was extremely under wraps in the
weekly Sunday night meetings we had with the - the union membership, which was
almost only those who were on strike. A couple of people who were in the union and
were not on strike would come, but they were very large. They were held at the
Buchanan Street Y, [unintelligible] that has given us.
And who we were because it was the nature, I guess, of strikes. The negotiating
committee was always putting a terrifically good face on. “Oh, it’s almost over. Yes,
things are going well.” And we, by the nature of this - because people were so worried,
and they’d come with their wives, you know, and they would - these were not upbeat
meetings by any means. In fact, I felt they were - it was like, you know, like a decaying
marriage and you lie to your wife and you say, “Is it going to get - am I going to get away
with it one more time.” And so in a way I felt that way among the negotiating committee
of people that we - we were trying to keep Art, we were trying to keep Gary, we were
trying to keep Jess, even Herb, sometimes, in line. And Fred, Hank and I and Peter
Radcliff were - we were solid. I mean, we - we understood that until the student strike
ended, we were not going to end this strike, whatever we could do to that effect.
When I met one-on-one with Van Bourg and Weinberg, I was very comfortable because
Victor has that ability. He’s - and he felt comfortable with - 1 think with the students. He
thought they were all crazy, but he - they - they charmed him because he felt there was a
- something colorful about all of this. And obviously when you’re in, as we were, an
actual negotiating situation, sitting there down there at the city hall, you know, room, no,
you’re not comfortable because it’s a very uncomfortable situation. There was a trustee
sitting in another room, and there’s George John and Roger Haughton and these people
running back and forth, and then they - they meet secretly with Art who has been, as you
reminded me, meeting secretly with Bishop Hurley and Eli Ono, these were not
comfortable things. So when you actually got to meet, you know, at a - or mostly it was -
most of the business was done hanging out. You hung out at the union headquarters,
which was a kind of, you know, cruddy room with chairs and desks and messy. Or you
hung out actually in the rain on the picket line. And that’s where a lot of business got
I - last point. I’m under no illusions that what I learned in the Army about the distinction
between being an enlisted man and being an officer was what made me understand - and
Fred and Hank understood that too, that the place for us where we had to be at least by
midmorning until the business of the tact with the police and the tact squad and so on got
over, was at 19th and Holloway on the picket line. There was no question. And the
others did not see it that way. They were an officer mentality. And they were usually
either down - back at the union headquarters or they were downtown. So I missed. I’m
sure, a number of meetings, you know, that Art and others were having.
PC: Just to use your metaphor, I mean, you sound like NCO’s the three of you -
ES: Yeah -
PC: - you know, that being in between the two classes.
PC: Let’s talk a little about the negotiating committee then. Is it possible for you to put
things together in a sequence of events, or is that too fuzzy?
ES: It’s pretty fuzzy, but I’ll try.
ES: The - at the beginning, it seems to me, we were totally led by Art and the lawyer, by - and
Victor. And he would meet with us and say, “This is what we have to do today.” And
the other kinds of meetings we would have would be among ourselves when we would
review. A, how the strike was doing, and, B, the very mundane things that would not
have to do with negotiating, but had to do with running a strike, i.e., so many people are
coming down from Berkeley or from the - this group or that group, B, who is going to go
and talk to the oil workers. That was me or Martinez. You know, we did - we had to
arrange that kind of thing. Is there going to be enough food, otherwise bring - you know,
all those things that were - were carrying on. The strike fund, will someone talk to
Sperling and make sure he knows what’s going on so that they can make the right
statement. Those kinds of things.
And the - there was no communication as such between the negotiating committee and
the administration of the university that I know about. If there was any, that was done by
Art and Gary or other - we didn’t - 1 never talked to a - to Hayakawa or to anybody in his
administration during this strike, okay. And I don’t think we did as a committee. Who
we talked to were - besides our lawyer, were these two other forces. We talked directly
to George Johns, who met with us, and was one -
PC: You told me about him. What was he like?
ES: Do you remember the great Gildersleeve?
ES: That’s what he looked like. That’s what he came across as. Someone my age - and - and
he dressed and came across as a man who should be an absolute fraud, and he wasn’t. He
was authentic. He understood - he understood better than Victor did, which always
surprised me. In fact, he helped to translate sometimes to Victor when Victor would say,
“This is not a strike! I don’t understand! How can you have a strike, you know, when
we’re going to be able to get you what you’re asking for and you’re still saying you’re
going to stay out!” He got it. And he got to the extent that he was, I think, and Eynn said
his papers would be interesting with this context, that those guys whose names - if you
pulled ‘cm out, I could pull ‘cm out and respond to them. They were all Jack and Bill
and - something - you know, heads of these various crafts unions - were - leadership of
the Eabor Council, and they were the ones who had to be convinced because they were
not - that we were really striking on working condition issues.
And this was a man who was consummate in knowing - we never mentioned the fact that
he was lying, just as we were lying when we said to our people, “Everything’s going
great.” And we were - we didn’t lie to George Johns and he knew exactly the situation
and he’d lie for us. And he said all these men are really involved in this, this terrible
problem of the working conditions and you’ve got to - got to support them. No, no, no,
the student strike is something completely different. And he would do that - now, they
knew he was lying, too, but, you see, it was - 1 felt great faith in somebody who’s lying
on your side, I guess. It was that - it didn’t bother me. It bothered a great many of the
rank-and-file. They - they -
PC: Rank-and-file of the union?
ES: Of the union.
PC: What -
ES: Our union. AET. They couldn’t see it. They couldn’t understand why - why would the
Eabor Council go along when instinctively and from private conversations they knew
where we were and that we were inextricably linked with the student strike at this stage
of the game.
PC: Let me interrupt just - I want to come back to here, but something you just said - 1
think Art Bierman might question whether the two strikes were inextricably linked.
ES: Yes. That was what we argued about every single session after we were with these other
groups beeause he would say, “Why did you say that?” to Hank or to me or to Fred or to
Bier - you know, beeause we’d say, ‘“Cause it is.” And he’d say, “No, I don’t see it that
way.” And that way would be - you know, and that was the - the disaster cry that you
were destroying the faculty, you were destroying - Art wanted to get back in, that’s all he
wanted. And he and Victor - because it was Victor’s profession, were worried about
saving our jobs, okay.
So then came on the scene - and this you probably have better from Bierman than from
me because there was always a little bit distant, the figures of the trustees negotiating
team and mostly, I remember, Lou Heilbron, who we dealt with - Lou and I have since
become very good friends - and the guy they brought in from Michigan State, was it -
Ronald Hoffman, yeah.
PC: Okay, I interrupted you. Let’s - you were going to - you mentioned that there two
intermediaries that - that the negotiating committee regularly dealt with. One was
George Johns -
ES: And the other was Horton -
PC: Tell me ahout him then.
ES: I liked him a lot. I think he must have been very good at his profession. He - he was a
ranging, waspy, almost professorial type, which is why he - 1 think we felt comfortable
with him immediately. He saw his job as strictly one of getting this thing over, and he
did what a - what a - 1 think a media has to do - he - has to do, he - he listened to us and I
have no idea what he said to the trustees, but it was - 1 think without him probably, the
thing wouldn’t have - have to come to a close the way it - the way it did.
PC: So Horton and Johns were the go-hetweens between the negotiating committee and
the trustee committee?
PC: Do you - well, you’ve indicated a few times, hut - that controversies within the
negotiating committees -
ES: Yes -
PC: - did this happen not in the presence of Horton - in other words, you did keep a
united front -
PC: - and then afterward had these other kinds of sessions?
PC: And the main -
ES: The main thing was when - when ean we call this off. You see, everybody gets fired.
We’ve all got your letters by registered mail. And then, of course, the university
administration discovered that they were in a bind. They had a beginning - they had to
start a new semester, and how could they start a new semester without the faculty, you
know, teaching the classes. And we found we were in the same bind. How could we
ever come back if we didn’t have these classes that we were striking from?
So - oh, my God, the discussions and then the negotiations with the students, trust us, you
know. We’re just going back in to get the class started and then we’ll come back out,
okay? And so we - we came back and we were accepted back at that stage, you know,
we were put back on the payroll again. And I remember very clearly one of the classes
because - well, that’s in there about the literature in revolution thing. You read about
PC: Uh-huh, It’s in the manuscript -
ES: Yeah. Do you want me to get it - yeah. Well, back about November, when all hell was
breaking loose in my building and there were literally cops with guns running down the
hall and people were racing around the chairman of the English Department. Carolyn
Schrodes walked by utterly oblivious and - and said, “Oh, Eric,” she said, “A1 [Avali] just
quit. This was the guy who was going to teach a course in Carlyle and it was called
Eiterature in Revolution. “Would you teach this course? Would you be interested in
teaching this course?” Ah - what - yeah, I said, whatever, you know, and I ran on - and
so I went down to teach that. The students also came back, all of them, to fill the classes
in order to protect the professors. You see, that was the deal we cut.
So there must have been 400 strike leaders in that classroom, and I walked in wearing my
wet suit because it was raining again, which I always wore during the strike, and I said,
“Okay, this is a class of literature in revolution, let’s get out on the picket line,” or
something like that. I got cheered and that was it. Well, then we were all fired again.
The letters came again and so on. That’s the beginning of Eebruary.
The strike ended on, what, March -
PC: Officially around March 20*** -
ES: March 20th, okay. Well, from the moment we came back, we were working against time,
you see, because it’s one thing to be an academic and to go out on strike after you’ve had
10 weeks of the semester, you know. And you feel, shit, you know, we’ve done the work
and who was going to grade the papers, you know, and put grades in. It’s a very different
thing because we have - the double identity remained. I mean I would drive in to the
campus. I’d get in early. I’d have my car and I’d park and I’d read the literary eriticism. I
mean I was still a professor of English, and so beside all the worries about wife and
kiddies and mortgage, there was a sense, you know, if we don’t stop this, we’re not going
to be able to put a eourse together. And we’re - we’re not going ever to do this - so that
eaeh week that went by, the pressure beeame more and more, and that was what we
argued about because the students were convinced that their pressure could cause this
strike to be won and for them to get all their demands. Then two things happened. A
major mistake was made, I think, by the student leadership. They called a mass meeting,
if you reeall, on campus, and that was the day of the mass bust -
PC: Were you at that?
PC: Did anybody try to talk you out of going to it?
ES: No, I was sent. The - you see, by this time, NBC was following me around everywhere,
so I was protected speeies. Wherever I went, went two huge cameramen and a whining
producer, you know. So that the negotiating committee said, “You and Ered will go as
observers.” Observers only -
[End of Tape 3 -Side 3 (A)]
[Begin Tape 3 - Side 3 (B)]
ES: - Ered went to - he - Ered’s an old refugee who had fled from Nazi’s, from Germany to
Erance, from Eranee to Southern California. He was not bothered by a police presenee
the way I was. I kept a very wary eye out and I was lurking somewhere at the very
fringes of the erowd, and Ered was right in the middle. And they eame - they didn’t -
instead of doing their usual sweep, which we had - had become traditional, they did an
interseeting movement, you see, and they arrested them all. And included Ered, and I
remember - and there were a eouple of other faculty that were not part of the negotiating
committee that had wanted to hear that. Ah, I think Ered’s wife, as a matter of fact, too.
And so I reported baek to the union, and then that was the night they had - they took ‘em
all, they booked ‘em all, and they kept most of them over night. And we were quite
desperately trying to figure out ways of getting them out. And we had Van Bourg and we
had - various people. And that was the night I went to Alioto’s house and broke up his
dinner party - [unintelligible] was with me at that -
PC: Who was -
ES: Dean Terwillinger, that other guy - 1 think there was a third person. And we said, “You
know, let them out. These are niee people.” “Oh, you ean’t do this. This is strike
breaking.” And they eventually - the next morning, they were released, but there were a
series, then, of legal maneuvers even before the series of trials. I think they were tried in
groups of 10 or 15 - 1 think it was elose to 50 trials, whieh meant 50 lawyers had to be
hired - but before that, they were all - any - it gave an alternate foeus, I think, that - it
broke the impetus of the student strike. They suddenly had other fish to fry. And many
of them were streetwise enough to know that they didn’t want a felony on their reeords
and so on. So that that was - the enthusiasm for what they were doing, they were moving
in a direetion of we’re not going to do this for the rest of our - the rest of this year. The
same time, elearly, the union membership.
Now both these groups, beeause of that, were voting with their feet, you see. The
rhetorie hadn’t ehanged. We were still making these demands. But it was elear - and I
think Art and Gary and the others were more pereeptive than Fred and I were. They had
pieked up on that. And so I found myself in the negotiating eommittee meetings and in
the larger meetings beeoming more and more marginalized, that I was still with the
leadership and the 10 or 12 who really were the leaders who were all ethnie minority kids
- people - 1 was still with them. But the white kids, partieularly, they - they didn’t - they
were worried about these trials. The fellow strikers were worried now about their jobs.
And so the last two or three weeks, there was a kind of an inevitability what was going
on, and I wasn’t arguing any more. I knew it was going to happen.
PC: Uh-huh. You mentioned this meeting with Alioto at his house. Had you met him
during this strike period at any other time?
PC: Did you have any contact with the committee, his citizen’s committee that Bishop
Hurley had run? Ever meet Bishop Hurley?
ES: No - I’ve seen him. He eame to one of our larger meetings, and I suppose I said hello to
him. I ean eall up his faee now.
PC: Were you ever told of any advice that the citizen’s committee had given to the union
ES: Yes. We were told that they - their advice was you’ve done enough and you - you must
settle. That was pretty much - Art would report on that kind of thing. It was usually - it
was almost always, fine, enough, and these people are reasonable of the trustees and they
- there was no talk at the beginning about job protection, and then there was. And the -
and I think this may have had something to do with what Hurley, as I recall, was able to
do. In other words, to go around the trustees, to go around the administration and go to
the State Personnel Board. And I don’t know who. Art may have told you, who thought
that ploy up. But, of course, that was the one that did save the jobs of the tenured faculty.
PC: Now you - people were arrested at this mass bust - the famous mass bust -
ES: Yeah -
PC: - but no one that I know of, at least as far as I’ve heard, was ever arrested for being
on a picket line, faculty people. Were you - did you ever fear that you were going to
be swept away by the tac squad?
ES: Yes. When I actually went out on strike on the picket line, we had kids who were eight
and four at home in our little house in the sunset, and a wife - 1 had a wife who worked an
eight-hour day at Kaiser, Oakland. And a young - a babysitter. And Irene was concerned
what would happen if I got arrested. And she actually went so far as to call my then very
good friend, Charlie O’ Brian, who was the chief deputy attorney general to the State of
California. And Charlie said, “Don’t worry, they’re not going to arrest people on the
picket line.” And that was just - he gave her that as absolute reassurance, which was
really what happened.
So then - you know, there had been a lot of discussion in a lot of places on this issue, and
partly this came because we had some community people on those picket lines. You
know, they came out to show solidarity. We had people coming over from Berkeley. We
had a lot of that. And - but there was - what they did on the picket lines, the only
violence, you know, came - they picked out; they were being provocative, the cops, and
they would pick out the kids for whom they had warrants and they arrested students. But
not for picketing.
PC: Right, Students - students I know about, I was concerned because, you know, part
of the reason - part of the justification for the sweep bust - 1 mean the big bust was
that these were faculty who had left the picket line. That was one of the - 1 mean,
the union leadership did - never said to Fred, “Don’t go there because you might get
arrested when you’re off the picket line.”
ES: They told us to - not to get arrested. And I took it seriously, and Ered was just - I’ll show
you the picture. You’ll see this is a man who - who, me get arrested? [Laughing]
PC: [Laughing] You mention in your manuscript also a couple of confrontations you had
on the picket line. Once you were hit hy a student, I think, and hy a cop? Is that
right? Did I get that right?
ES: Yeah, a little pushing around there. This would all come during the moment when they
were doing their arresting. And then there was the one time that the - NBC set up a
confrontation with [unintelligible], but that was their program, you know.
PC: Were you aware that a deal had been made with Alioto to prevent the police making
arrests of faculty people?
ES: It was mentioned.
PC: You knew that then?
ES: It was mentioned.
PC: Okay, And apparently this conversation with the district attorney’s office would
have confirmed that?
PC: So that was sort of known.
One tactic also that you didn’t mention was the business of withholding the fall
semester grades were an issue that came up. Do you remember -
ES: Yeah, I remember that being talked about. It was - it - as I recall, and I may be wrong
here, that came up not in the negotiating committee, but in one of the Sunday night
meetings from the floor. That was an idea that some of the hotter heads among the union
membership thought would be a good idea. Did we do that? I don’t even remember -
PC: I think you eventually agreed to turn the grades in -
ES: Yeah, I think we did eventually. We kept them for a while, yeah. We turned them in to
the department office, I think, rather than to the - the way they used to do it, which was to
send them directly to the registrar.
PC: I had a thread that was just - fled from my mind - um, let’s talk about the
negotiating process itself. So the - you finally work out an agreement essentially on -
on returning to work. It doesn’t deal with the original faculty issues, does it? I
mean, per se?
PC: Working conditions, teaching loads, things like that, have no consequences. And
apparently you never expected that it would,
ES: That’s right.
PC: When that vote came about whether to accept the settlement, how did you vote?
ES: Well, I got to back up a little - no, I think that - 1 voted no. I voted to continue the strike
because the student strike was still going on, and that was either my moment - either my
finest or my most farcical. I’ve never been sure which. The vote was overwhelming. I
don’t have the numbers, but I would say if there were 350 people there, it was probably
something like 330 to 20 or something like that. I mean, we had taken these votes
ES: - you know. We took ‘cm almost every - every meeting after we went back in Eebruary -
PC: Well, I guess there are two questions. We’re getting ahead of it. The first one I was
wondering about within the negotiating committee -
ES: Oh, within the negotiating committee, it was much closer. It was about - 1 would say it
was seven to four.
PC: Okay, and the four would be you -
ES: Radcliff, I think. Although I’m not sure where Peter Whelen and Ered and Hank -
PC: Fred and Hank, okay -
PC: Okay, And then what I have is a final vote being 112 to 104, which was to accept the
settlement, which was a close vote,
ES: Huh. Interesting. Why did I feel that it was so overwhelming - ah, oh, I - 1 know. Okay.
Because there was a second vote that I called for after that. It was the second vote I’m
thinking of. Okay. And - right. And that vote was close because people - we were being
watched, the students were there in the first place, and people knew that it was going to -
going to pass and they wanted the luxury of voting. So then I made a motion and - it was
a request, I think, more than a formal motion. But it was put to a motion, and asked that -
I said there were some of us who are not going, I said. And what I would like is that you
guys who go in, go in, but let us continue to be the union. We will be AFT Local 1352.
There were about - 1 figure there were about 20 to 25 of us who would stay out, and that
was the one that lost by that overwhelming vote.
So then we - we had a little meeting and we - we all agreed that we would stay out and
we would meet the next morning at the Ecumenical House before going to the picket line,
and there were 25 of us, and the next morning there were seven, and you know, that was
the way it went.
PC: Just for the record, who - do you rememher who were the seven names -
ES: Very hard. Nancy was one, the three of us, and there were - 1 don’t think there was
anybody else from the negotiating committee. I can look that up somewhere, but I can’t
PC: Also, before we get off to another subject, you mentioned that there were AFT
members who were non-strikers.
ES: Oh, yeah.
PC: A lot?
PC: Did they attend the regular weekly meetings of the union?
ES: Oh, they did worse than that. We had three, I think, areas. One there were the AET
members who were outraged at the idea of the strike and resigned as the strike started.
Two, there were the AET members who were appalled and tormented, and they went as
Jerry Wertheimer put it just last week, and in speaking of Hayakawa, he was sometimes
on strike and sometimes not. They would, yes, come to the meetings. They would walk
on the picket line, and quite openly would go to their classes and teach, and would whine
and bewail, and then would - they lasted about two weeks and then went back in. I don’t
think they bothered to resign, you see, because - and in some way they had justified who
they were and what they were doing by having sort of been there for two weeks.
Then there was the third group, and the third group is - names are going to be a problem
for me if we’re going to aetually have a gathering and a eelebration. Those were the ones
who took a full and eomplete role the entire time in the strike. They were never
pereeived as, you know, teaehing elass and they were totally eommitted outwardly to the
strike. And I think they’re probably elose to half of the tenured faeulty in that situation,
only a eouple of whom we knew were in that situation. I mean, we knew Pat [Pureell],
for example, was a department ehair. And Pat had full sign time as department ehair of
soeial welfare. He was on strike, but he had - he was going to get paid anyway beeause
he didn’t have to go to elass. He wanted to stay. And we knew that - the art department
guy, too. There were a few - eouple of people like that -
PC: Well, finish your sentence, though -
ES: But the sentenee was that these people were pretending, and I think there were elose to
100 of the 200 tenured faeulty that were on that - that strike really weren’t.
PC: In other words, they were getting paid.
ES: They were getting paid. And they were getting paid beeause they were meeting their
elasses in the evening by a speeial arrangement at their houses or at other plaees. And the
reason I know this is when the January - now you remember January was when
everybody was in this game. Payroll was arranged, my arehenemy, the viee-president
Garrity, sent me, and as far as I know, no one else, a eopy of the payroll whieh is there in
my files. And I - you know, I never read that earefully from this day to the next. I went
over it. I saw the figures. I looked, and I just didn’t want to know. But he also leaked in
a way - well, you know, all’s fair - we’re fighting a war here - the faet that one of those
people was a member of the negotiating eommittee. And he did that to pull the rug, or
the eredibility, out of the negotiating eommittee. And I don’t know who he told that to.
It was not I who earned that information, and we had an aetual eonfrontation. It was Jess
Ritter. Beeause not only was he doing that, but beeause his wife was head of the food
serviee thing and we had a little strike fund and you eould get something like 20 bueks a
week per kid and he had five kids. He was taking, out of this tiny strike fund, he was
taking 100 bueks a week and he was getting fully paid. And Jess - [unintelligible] for
many years. Well, we faeed him with it, he admitted it. He just said, “Times were hard.
We’re both from Arkansas.” And he was one of our strike heroes beeause of a pieket
post in the parking lot, a man named Jerry Wyness who was the athletie direetor, furious
that we were leafleting ears and telling them not to eome to work, got out of his oar and
Jerry was quite a hood and he didn’t know that Jess - Jess was a Golden Gloves boxer
and he started to slug him, and Jess just deoked him. And so, you know, that’s - that’s
big stuff for union teaohers.
And the union was remarkably - to me, anyway, forgiving. And we said, “Well, you
shouldn’t have done that, Jess. Okay, don’t do it again. I mean, don’t take the money out
of the strike fund.” And he still kept eoming to the meetings. But there were - yeah.
And that is something that I told people like Leo Litwak and Herb Wilner when they
were writing their book and I said, “I don’t think you want to look at that,” and they said,
“No, we eertainly don’t.” I mean, nobody really wanted to know. It’s a dirty deep seeret,
been deep-sixed, and I don’t think I’ll ever use it.
PC: Well, there’s another way of looking at it, of course. I mean, not to justify people
dipping into the strike fund, hut isn’t it possible to see these people as feeling, like,
well, I’m earning a living and I am still on strike in mayhe not in the technical sense,
hut in the political sense?
PC: And what would he the heef with that?
ES: It stinks. Because we had this issue out at the meeting before we went on that there were
people - as long as there were people there who had actually gotten fired - you don’t
know the - wait a minute. You do know the feeling. But I certainly had never known the
feeling of - you actually get the registered letter. It’s a very long letter full of a lot of
legalese saying - but it says very clearly, “You are fired. You are no longer working.”
Well, yeah, I think it takes a lot of - to stand next to a guy who just had read that letter.
The letters came to your home, so, you know, nobody could tell who got them. They
didn’t come to a department office or anything like that, obviously. And to be - to be
saying, yes - 1 mean, nobody said, “Well, I didn’t get a letter because I’m not really on
strike. I’m just halfway with you.” No, no. They were all pretending.
Now I said I was a liar a lot of the time, but my lies, I felt, were on the side of the angels.
They were not to protect myself. They were to protect the strike, which I was committed
to. These lies were simply to protect themselves. I think anybody who said that one
would have respected Dick Wydlic, a guy who had a retarded child who was again - he’s
running the operation in the Ecumenical House too - and his wife was doing a lot of the
stuff for meals and so on. He said, “I can’t - 1 can’t stay on the strike” and nobody - you
know, nobody - we said, “Well, come around. You know, you’re welcome to walk with
us,” and that kind of thing. It’s - it’s pretending to be something that you’re not, I think,
is very different.
PC: Well, I understand that certainly in the moral sense and in the personal sense, hut in
the political sense, what difference does it make?
ES: It made - 1 suppose since you want me to debate this. I’ll say it probably came out even.
In other words, in a political sense, it was a good thing to have more of these people on
the picket line. At the same time, it strengthened the hand of the administration who
knew the truth immeasurably too. And when it came - when it came after the strike to
picking off non-tenured faculty, it made the hand a great deal easier because they knew if
they got any complaints from some of these other people how to shut ‘em up - and I don’t
know what went on with that, you see. It was a blackmail device.
PC: Did you ever discuss this with people? Like Ritter subsequently?
ES: Not a word. I think there were three people in the world who know, my wife, you, now,
Leo, obviously who I told, and Steve Arkin. And only on very rare occasions, I have
dipped into that list when somebody said, “Well, he was on strike with us and we’ve got
to give him tenure because of that,” and I would say - he wasn’t on strike - 1 wouldn’t say
how I know it, but I would just quietly do that, if that’s your reason for doing it. And we
did - you know, there was a lot of post-strike loyalty. There were some people who
shouldn’t have jobs at San Francisco State.
PC: And vice-versa?
ES: And vice-versa.
PC: Mayhe that’s the - you know, I have a few summation questions, and then mayhe we
can - if you wanted to - 1 mean this was one of the things you mentioned on the
phone and prohahly the most controversial thing that you had to say was the sense
of deceit. It seems that everybody was not telling the truth -
ES: That’s right. And - and maybe - maybe that has to do with all movements of this - of this
kind. I certainly found that - later, when I was in other positions of leadership, that you
can’t be completely candid. I realized that this was an incredibly delicate and - 1 didn’t
think it was dangerous. There were people among some of these students who certainly
talked, you know, a violent game. And I felt that one had to keep them sort of believing
in you and - on your line as it were, and I felt that there were - it made sense if - if you
were in a leadership position to say that it’s really going to be all right even though in
your heart you felt, “Oh, shit,” you know - but as I say. I’m no more moral than the next
person, and I’m - 1 don’t believe that the truth is an absolute and I see why you’re asking
me then why do you demand that other people who were on - put - pretending to be on
strike, why, and I suppose that is a contradiction. I’ll just have to say -
PC: Well, no, I think you - the answers - 1 mean, I asked you that as a political question,
not as a moral question. You responded in that sense and that there was a lot of
I guess I’m also struck, as someone who came into the San Francisco State scene
around 1975, long after the wars were over, to discover that the wars were never
ES: It was never over. They will not be over until the last person dies. That has surprised
me, though, more than anyone else because I felt the wars were over at least twice,
maybe three times. I hung around here after the strike. I had all these job offers, I told
you, people were trying to get me out of here. I turned them down. And one of the
reasons I did was because we had this major committee, this Academic Freedom
Committee, and I got elected to it, the only person from - that had a strike background,
which was about 1970, and I said, “I think now the strike is over. I mean, this proves
something,” you know.
And then about four years later, I got elected chair of the Academic Senate by one vote
with Garrity and the president’s five appointees, all in opposition, and it was a very tight
business, but I did. And I did that for two years, and when we did have a faculty retreat
at Asilomar and I made the statement, “Now the strike is over,” I said, “And this is what
this represents.” And - no. And then when I became provost, at the first meeting with
the faculty, I said, “Well, now, at last.” I’ve been saying this, I said, like a broken record.
Well, actually I think I said, “This clearly represents that.” And to this day, we hire a
new faculty person, and our new administrator, and they are just filled with something
that happened 25 years ago.
Now where does that come from? I guarantee it does not come from the strikers, from
the left. Most of us have forgotten that, or if we remember it, we don’t remember it as
something that is a way of measuring people. Unless when we get - you know, if you get
maudlin or reminiscent or - in that - in that form. The - the right among the faculty -
well, most of them are gone now because they were older, I think, generally, and they
retired or died, and I think I told you they - right and left, when we - when we came back
in, we were back and we were realists and we worked together. No, it was from two
sources that that strike is so alive. One, all those people, mostly in large departments like
English and Psychology that were absolutely split right down the middle, that’s the
people who talked good game and said we must do this, we’re liberals and so on, and
then got so angered, you know, because they were called on. They - they can never stop.
And that’s where they educate the young to - you watch out for Eric Solomon, you know.
The things he said to people during that time and so on. He was a terrible man.
And the others - and you can always catch it by the language, the staff. Nobody talks
about the staff in this. Because no staff - they had no union. They had no anything.
They all were right in there working. All the secretaries, all the grounds keepers,
everybody. And these are - they were at risk. When people with bombs, if they did, you
know, in buildings, or when people smashed windows, or when people go roaring
through the halls, who were there? I don’t think the faculty were there. The secretaries
are sitting in the department offiees and so on. And their rhetorie is interesting. They
don’t refer to it. To this day when I talk to some of the old-timers, it’s not the strike, it’s
the riots. “You were there during the riots, Erie. I remember that, the riots.” Isn’t that
And at luneh, post-Hayakawa’s death last week, a woman, Eleanor Marey, who teaehes
in the Humanities, was explaining to a student newspaper reporter, “Well, we had to have
Hayakawa. You don’t understand. I mean, classes - they were coming in and breaking
up classes.” And she was still quivering with absolutely all the old, you know, confusion,
rage, anger. This is not a right-wing person you understand. Teaches Humanities. And I
- to their dying days, their trauma was much, much worse than something that anybody
who went out on strike, I think, ever perceived it.
I, of course, the problem with that manuscript was my absolute lack of knowledge of this
and the harsh - the prose reflected - 1 thought it was reflective of the fact that I was doing
journalism and it was too close to me. No, it reflected anger and rigidity and moral
stupidity on my part, I think, and that’s why I’m so glad that I have all of those protection
letters because I - that would have been - 1 wouldn’t be ashamed of that.
PC: When Art Bierman talks about the strike, he talks about it as a victory. You talk
about it as a loss.
ES: Oh, yeah.
PC: How do you explain that?
ES: Yeah, two things constitute a loss. One is that we came crawling in without a single one
of our demands answered. The students came in with only the promise that they would
get the minimal stuff that they would have gotten probably without a strike in time. In
other words, they’d get their School of Ethnic Studies. I mean, they had a School of
Ethnic Studies. And Nathan Hare and Juan Martinez and - and so on, but, you know, it
would be - it would be somewhat more - and this, what - as Terwillinger said to me on
Thursday at lunch I think explains it best. He said, “You know what we lost in that
strike?” He said, “I lost my innocence.” Now I had lost that a long time before because I
had been a campus pawn. I lost it when we couldn’t turn our grades over -
[End of Tape 3 -Side 3(B)]
[Begin Tape 4 - Side 4 (A)]
ES: - but I thought - he said he had lost his innocence when he learned that the faculty’s mass
action couldn’t change the nature of things. And what I’m saying is that I think a lot of
people felt that way and that is what you call “losing.” We snuck back in, in a sense, and
many people - many people for technical reasons or something, had to beg and plead and
they were - there were ironies. I mean, some of the people who had come in very early,
they maybe only had been on strike a week and then their papers had gotten fouled up
and they remained off the payroll - 1 mean, it was all - it was a humiliation. That was one
aspect why I consider it a loss.
I consider it a loss because unlike Bierman, who was in a very small department, who
almost all supported the strike, I lost a number of my most valued younger colleagues,
and I saw people all over the campus whom I was very close to never, you know, be
PC: People were picked off afterwards?
ES: People were picked off afterwards. And it was heaviest in the English Department
because of the coincidence of his first vice-president being from the English Department.
PC: How did that work? Give me - can you maybe take an example?
ES: Sure, I’ll take an example. I’ll give you two examples from the English Department, the
ones I know best. I could give you from - from everywhere. Take an example of Ed Van
Aelstyn. He was Shakespeare - assistant professor who taught Shakespeare. Had no
leadership role at all, but he was up for retention, and the chair of the department, who
had not been reappointed by Hayakawa until August - the appointments usually take
place in March - simply wrote a letter saying that he should not be retained. The dean,
who had been put in by Hayakawa and the vice-president who was still there, denied him
retention. And he was gone. That was a very, you know, quiet way, of doing it.
There were other cases of people whose work had been splendid as far as we were
concerned, and you know, people whom we - we felt a real commitment to. And they
fought it. Barry Javelon, who was a Berkeley Ph.D. took it to court, then one testified - 1
did, Garrity did. The court upheld the right of the university to fire him. I mean, his
credentials were as good as anybody’s, but - he said it was strike-related, and they said,
“No, no. No.” Of course it was strike-related. And - and so whether you went quietly
like Van Aelstyn, whether you took it to court, you know, that I consider a loss.
A couple of my most valued colleagues, who were also very good in what they did, they
got other jobs. I consider that a loss. I mean, there were people who quit. But mostly
it’s that from my department, we lost a generation where people - it’s a department now
in their 60s and 70s, and late 40s.
PC: None of the younger people were non-strikers? Or a few of them?
ES: No, that’s not true. Some of them were non-strikers. My present offieemate, David
Reniker. And it’s also true - and these are the ironies that I think go through the whole -
the whole eampus, some survived. Steve Arkin, who is now our chair. The chair liked
him. He never coincidentally made any provocative statements in a meeting where Frank
Dahl, who had become a vice-president, was sitting and so on. So there were people who
did get through, yes. And there was no real rhyme nor reason except if - ’cause our
department was pretty much dominated by the people who were on strike. But if you had
a department that wasn’t like Sociology, they got their people - Arlene Daniels, who I
think is now - they got ‘cm, and they got ‘cm out of there in a hurry.
If you got people who were - poor old Morgan Pinney, he also was gay, the one - and he
didn’t dress right - but the one person on strike from the entire School of Business - like I
said, we made him the union treasurer - organizer and secretary for a while until he got
another job. I mean he was gone as fast as they could. Others they waited discreetly a
year until a cycle came from the personnel actions which usually - you know -
PC: How big was this purge do you estimate? A 100 people? 50 people?
ES: I would estimate 50 to 80. Ah, I would have to go through an old book and look at that.
Because you remember that my judgment is that there were 200 tenure - tenured track
people on strike, really on strike. And of those, maybe 100 were faking it one way or
another, or had tenure. So Em thinking - I’m thinking that almost everybody, really, who
didn’t have tenure was gone, yeah.
PC: And you - you just indicated earlier, a few minutes ago, that there were people that
were retained when you had the possibility of doing that because they had been
ES: This was, again, probably available in the departments that were solidly - smaller
departments that were solidly on strike. Yeah, one guy, Dan Eangton, a poet, I - he
happened to have a split appointment in Creative Writing and English, and so two years
later, when he came up for tenure, the creative writing people didn’t want him. I thought,
what the hell, he’s no worse than others we got, and so we had a - a joint meeting, and I
said to Eeo, who was chair there, “Come on, Eeo, he was out on the picket line with us.”
And he said, “Oh, fuck it, all right.” And he’s never let me forget that because the guy’s
been a lousy teacher ever since.
ES: There was the case of Don Province, that’s an interesting case. This is one of the most
interesting eases. In Philosophy - remember I told you Philosophy was a solid strike
department. Don was fired by his eolleagues. In other words, they thought he was a
lousy teaeher. They had not given him tenure. He was in his terminal year when the
strike eame. He was out on the strike the whole time. People ehanged. When they eame
back from strike, they said, “We can’t fire this man. This is Brother Province.” And he
got his tenure. Full - now a full professor. There’s an example.
Then there were - there’s a handful.
PC: Right, right.
ES: But - yeah.
PC: I’m struck how you rememher, you know, where everybody lined up. That you tell
me about your officemate and you say he wasn’t a striker then. I mean, obviously,
this is a scorn that has held.
ES: Youbetcha. Oh, well, in the department, absolutely. I mean, you know, you live in your
department and ours was absolutely split and torn, and those were the meetings - you see,
we’re special. George Murray was a member of the English Department, and the
younger faculty taught with George Murray. And they were the ones that were pushing a
lot on that issue, and I remember Mike Zimmerman - forget Mike Zimmerman, he was in
his first year. He had come over from Berkeley. He was, you know, an assistant to the
president there and got tenure. And he was a firebrand of the free speech movement, and
he was really pushing us, trying to push us way beyond - you know, in the heady days of
October, “We owe it to the blacks! You cannot-” We vote on strike, he was gone. And
I just said, “How come?” And he said, “Oh, you don’t understand. My wife is Japanese
and there’s no other city we could live in except here in the Bay Area, and I can’t take
this chance.” So, you know, sorry. And, of course. I’ve never forgiven him.
And the split was absolutely - 1 remember the day that - there was man named
Bassin...Bassin. He decided - was it during the strike or was it just after. I have a feeling
it was during the strike. And he said that we cannot have this split in the department.
And he gave a party and he invited me to the party and I said, “What the hell. I’ll go to
the party.” I didn’t know it was going to be the people on strike and the people out -
[unintelligible] and it was awful. And, you know, yeah, you knew because you saw, you
knew because you discussed, and it - it is something that we, as a department, it was
never brought up. I mean you do not talk to people about it who were there. And
everybody - the young people come and it’s like Rashomon - they get two views right
away. They get the view from the non-strikers - of all these awful people - they get the
view - anybody, as I said, who comes to the campus is told about, about these events.
And I - yeah, you’re right. I felt some people let me down. I mean, we - we needed all
the support. You wanted all the support. You thought people believed in what you
believed. And you remember. And, again. I’ve been rehearsing in a sense inadvertently
for this discussion with you because of the Hayakawa coincidental death. I believe we
were talking about a woman named Dorothy Petit. And Dorothy Petit and I have
absolutely nothing in common. She teaches people how to teach poetry to elementary
school kids and so on. She’s kind of a foolish, dowdy lady who I’ve seen taken
ridiculous positions on this and that. She went out on strike. She had two aging parents
living in Florida for whom she was the sole support. She was terribly worried about it.
She was like a rock. And I said to someone the other day, “You know, I was thinking
about that. This woman has continued.” We come back and she’s just as silly and
foolish and I will never badmouth her and I will never take her on because, you know,
she - she was my friend, [unintelligible]
PC: Did you have any contact with Hayakawa after the strike? Personally, I mean.
PC: Could you - 1 mean, is it of any significance I mean in terms of these issues?
ES: Yes, in a way it’s significant because it tells how the directions that we were moving in. I
was elected to this Academic Ereedom Committee. Hayakawa was president. We were
bombing Cambodia and the students decided to hold a protest rally. Hayakawa
announced if they did, he’d call in a tact squad and have them all arrested, that were to be
no gathering of this sort on the campus. We - and there were five of us, and most of them
were very, very senior, and nine people who were very angry at this - and we decided that
we would not allow this. We would protest it and we would hold a press conference in
And they said, for some reason, I guess it was because I was the youngest, “Oh, Eric, it’s
almost five o’clock. Will you go up to the president’s office and tell Hayakawa’s
secretary that we were holding this press conference.” So I went up there. It was the first
time I had been in the administration building - over a year - and I went up there. And
no one was there. It was about five past five when I got there. The door was open. The
CIA flack - was gone, the secretary wasn’t there, and so I started to write out a note and
he came out of the, you know, office and said, “Oh, Eric,” he said, “oh. I’m so glad to see
you!” And he said, “Come in.”
Well, I did. We sat down, and the man was so desperately lonely, you know, and he just
wanted to talk. How are things going in the department, what’s happening with this one,
what’s happening with that one, what we do, what - we talked for about a half an hour.
And then he said, “Well, why did you come up here anyway?” And I said, “Oh, gosh, I
have to tell you, you know, about this rally and the Cambodia thing. We’re going to hold
a press eonferenee tomorrow.” And he said, “You do that and I’ll destroy you all.” And
he just, you know, turned. And as it turned out, he came to the press conference instead
of destroying us all, and he was - 1 mean he really was very - we had a discussion and he
was very good, and we were very good, and the thing went off And that’s about it. I
saw him at - the guy I worked for then, Paul Romberg - 1 saw him at Romberg’s funeral,
memorial service. At least he sat, we both spoke and he [unintelligible] by then he was,
you know, pretty over the hill, but he remembered, it dawned on him who I was. And we
were perfectly amicable. But those were the - about it.
PC: What about Garrity, whose your - you’ve described as your nemesis?
ES: Yeah, well, that’s an interesting story. I don’t know if I - how far I carried this - we - a
president came in ‘72 or so - Hayakawa left the presidency, we fouled up a presidential
search - and the chancellor, Dumke, simply said you people still can’t pick a president.
And he appointed Paul Romberg, who was the Bakersfield president. And he came in
despite - you know, I was on the Senate then and we sent him messages, “Don’t come,”
and “The faculty doesn’t want you,” so he did. And he’s - come in and survived his first
year. He’s everything that I was not. He was an ex -Marine fighter pilot, colonel, grew
up an Iowa farm boy, was an agronomist, professional administrator, right-wing Reagan
Republican. Chico State and Bakersfield were his two other places.
I became chair of the Senate at the beginning of his second year. There was a meeting of
- apparently that I did know about. I told you I won by one vote. The Executive
Committee led by a philosopher named [unintelligible] Silver said, “We can overthrow
this guy. If you all unanimously vote, we will, you know, not to have him, we get in
somebody better who won’t cause as much trouble with the administration and so on.”
Romberg called me to his office and he said, “They’ve just come to me, the Executive
Committee, the people on it, and they said that they’ve done this and if I won’t support
them, they’ll come get rid of you.” And he said, “I better handle that.” And I said, “I
better do that.” And I did that. It was a matter of an hour.
And I came back and I said, “How come you’ve told me this?” He said, “Well,” he said,
“you’re chair of the Senate and you won the election, and I’m president of San Erancisco
State and I was put in here appropriately and I don’t see why we should start off without
me being honest with you. If I’m honest with you, maybe you’ll be honest with me.”
Now this is the first time I had met an honest administrator. And I said, “How
interesting.” I said, “You got a deal.”
Now then, there was Garrity. Now Garrity wasn’t president. Garrity was vice-president.
Garrity, by this time, wanted to be president. Garrity, though had made a big mistake.
He turned down the presidency when he was told to take it. Dumke called him and said.
“Summerskill’s gone. I don’t want Smith. I want you. You’re the vice-president, take
the job.” “No, sir.” You don’t turn down a chancellor when he wants you, when he
needs you. And so Garrity’s vice-president. Garrity has a whole infrastructure of -
practically everything parallels the president’s structure. He -
PC: I wondered, how do you know the story about him being called to Dumke and
offered the presidency? I mean, I’ve never heard this before,
ES: Because Glenn Dumke cried in my presence. Glenn Dumke came and met with the
Selection Committee. Remember that, I told you the presidential thing, we were still
meeting. We gave him the name of three black people. I told you that -
PC: Yes, yes,
ES: And he came to me and he begged, “Don’t do that.” And then he said, “You’re ruining
me.” He said, “I’ve got to put - you don’t know the political pressure, what Reagan is
doing to me if I don’t - we don’t make Hayakawa the president. Put him on the list.”
And I said, “We can’t do that.” He said, “Why are you people like this?” And he said, “I
told Garrity that he should be the president and this never would have happened.” And
then he went through it with me - with us.
PC: Oh, I see,
ES: Yeah. Okay, so Garrity, arrogant man that he was, took on Romberg. And he thought
that he could get rid of him, and he badmouthed him in places, you know. And you don’t
do that if you’re number two. But Romberg was a man with no support, right. So in
November - 1 mean, I guess it was January of that year, six months, we had this annual
retreat [up in Sonoma?] - I’m chair of the Senate so I’m, you know, addressing the first
session, and I said, “I have something else to say.” I said, “I’ve been working with Paul
Romberg now for six months,” and he was there on the platform, and I said, “I want to
tell you something.” I said, “He is a good man and he’s my friend.” [unintelligible] And
one of the guys in the audience told me later, he said, “You know, I knew, Eric,” he said,
“at that moment that Don Garrity was finished on this campus.”
I did work with the president. We blocked some of the things that Garrity - we were
working sort of as a team, and so then it was over. I did two years as chair of the Senate.
And then Romberg says, “Stay with me. I need you.” And I said, “Well, not this year.
I’m going to Stanford for the year. I really need time away from this place, but I’ll talk to
you about it in the spring.” And I came back and he gave me this very special job, the
best job I’ve ever had in my life, he made me his assistant. But it was a half-time job so I
could teach two classes, and my non-negotiable demands were no secretary, no office. I
report to you, we talk, we’ll meet. I’ll do whatever you tell me. I’ll give you information.
I’ll be your outside man. He had an inside man full-time to do all the, you know, detail
stuff I did that for six years. One time, when I was direetor of the library, but I kept the
other relationship with him.
Well, the day I took that appointment, I went down to see Garrity, and I said, “Now,
Don,” I said, “everybody is talking around here that just beeause I’ve taken this job with
the president that this means, you know, that you and I are going to have to duke it out.
We fight it out,” and so on. And I said, “I don’t feel that way.” I said, “I think we can
probably work together.” He looked at me and he said, “Go fuck yourself.” So the
president was alert, of course, to the fact that despite that he was trying a good many
things to cut Garrity’ s power, such as set up a budget committee where everybody would
present there - but Garrity hated that. He was the only one that knew about the budget,
and suddenly everybody was knowing about the budget. But they - 1 kept telling the
president, “Don’t worry about it. You want to get rid of him, get rid of him.” I said, “I
know everything he knows.” Because he - Paul was worried because he really didn’t
understand the academic program area. So he did. Fired him.
And Garrity was very angry. He was utterly furious at me. Blamed it all on me - and
Paul, I mean, the two of us. There were something like 17 farewell parties for him, you
know, but - all that kind of stuff And he went up to Central Washington. And he ruled
there as president for 14 years, and he was fired this spring. And I saw him three weeks
ago. And it was a very interesting meeting because I had been waiting for this meeting
for 14 years. I was wondering, you know, how it would go. Because we had had another
meeting after the strike which was friendly, at [unintelligible] trial. He came up to me
while we were outside the courtroom and he said, “Oh, Eric,” he said, “we’re going to
both be here at San Francisco State the rest of our life, we might as well shake hands.”
And then, well, of course, then this other stuff started it right up again.
So I saw him about three weeks ago. I didn’t recognize him for a moment. He was
talking to Joe Hick. And they called me over and Don says- “Don’t you remember me?
Don Garrity,” he was there with his wife. And he’s gotten a little heavier, but, yeah, I did
recognize him. And we made a little small talk. And then, you know, he said he’s going
to Japan for a year, and then he doesn’t know what he’s going to do, kind of thing. And I
went upstairs, I was getting a book and when I came down, he was still there with his
wife. So I went over and I said, “So, ah, it’s very odd to see you again after these years.”
And his wife, with the sensitivity that I did not expect, she - she left the two of us. And I
said to him something that I had been wanting to say to him, and I had said to others for a
long time, and I said, “You know, in a way, I kind of miss you.” I said, “You believe in
everything I don’t believe in and you screwed me over, but you know, I have never had
an opponent worthy of my mental sense,” and I said, “I - I’m not as good as I was. I
could have been better if you’d been here the whole time.” And he sort of responded in
kind and we talked for a while and we talked about decision making and so on. And the
funny thing is, this guy is now sort of in a position that Hayakawa - he’s a lonely guy.
He’s really got nothing, you know - a man who was in this aetive leadership role all his
life. And he told someone apparently last week how touched he was, he said, because a
lot of the other people refused to talk to him, you know, or turned their backs on him.
The old [unintelligible] was still there, but not the same way because he had no power.
And he said, “The thing that impressed me most was that - what Eric said to me that he
was willing to And I feel that way, you know.
PC: Amazing story. Do you know why he was fired?
ES: Erom -
PC: From Washington.
ES: Yeah. Yeah, Ido. He was the creature of the legislature. That’s how he - those are the
ones that he got a long with. And he played his cards wrong. He had gotten into trouble
with some people. When he got into trouble, he took the high - highhanded line. Well,
he brought in a vice-president who was even more arrogant than he was as president and
people were all in a fury. And then the Education Department lost its accreditation and
he held a faculty meeting and he told them that makes utterly no difference, he said, “I
am Mr. Accreditation for the West Coast. I have been head of the WASK operation.
This makes no difference at all. We will go on just as before.” And a year went by and
not a single school would hire anybody from Central Washington.
And then he took on, for some reason, the basketball coach. Now, the basketball coach
was a third-generation basketball coach. His father and his grandfather had been the
basketball coach, and the legislators had enough. You’re gone. And that was the official
story I got. And then - then I was told he was an alcoholic, so -
PC: Okay. Maybe this is a good place to stop - do you have - there’s no more you want
to - any points - tales to be told. Obviously you can always tell them, but -
ES: Yeah, right. Ah, no, I think we’ve - we’ve covered a lot. There’s another story - there
were a couple of other stories, though. There are the stories of the families, as there are
in any strike. Any good strike novel talks about the wives and husbands and children
who are - who are probably involved in lots of ways. There are a lot of marriages that
broke up over this -
PC: Over this?
ES: Over strike, sure. Oh, sure. There’s tremendous tension and pressure that were on
people. Eack of - some lack of income, sudden absence of husbands, suddenly people
doing utterly total changes. I mean, metaphorically - no, not metaphorically. There were
people who actually early - relatively early in the game, I would say very early ‘68, came
out of the closet. They said, “Oh, shit, I know who I am and I am not who I was
pretending to be.” And so they’d come out sexually as well.
PC: Were you aware of the gay baiting of Ray Kelch during the strike?
ES: No. This is the first I’ve heard of it.
PC: Well, apparently he was called a fag many times. In print, in fact. They referred to
him as the “queen of the history department” in some - somewhere in print.
ES: Interesting. He was a queen. He had a little group around him that he had hired. I think
that - where that would have come from largely would be the fact that in the trials, okay,
which were, as I say, about 50, 1 testified at about the first 15. Did I write about that?
ES: Okay, well, you see. I’m the only sympathetic person who had any standing to testify, so
I was - every lawyer got a hold of me right away. And the argument came out of the
History Department that the noise was such during that rally that it disrupted their
classes, and that was presented by - not - 1 think Kelch did testify. The main testifier was
a man named Arthur Mahia, old family, and I think he and Kelch were lovers. I’m not
sure, but they were certainly - he was part of that little group that hung around Ray. And
I, of course, said, “Nonsense.” I said, “I was standing by the library and I couldn’t hear a
word they were saying.” Which is true, by the way. It was amplified, but very low
amplification. And that’s why Ered went up where he did. And, you know, I explained
And I was very effective and they won every goddamn case until they impeached my
testimony. And they impeached my testimony on the basis of a busy young district
attorney said, “We got to shut this guy up,” and he got hold of the NBC white paper and
said to me, on about the 1 1th trial, before Harry Eowell was the judge, he’s now a retired
presiding judge, he said Eowell - he said, “I want the man’s testimony impeached.”
“Why,” he asked me, he said, “Did you testify or rather, “Did you say on this NBC
white paper,” and he had the transcript right there and he was reading from it, “that there
were police who enjoyed clubbing students?” I said, “Yes.” “And did you say that -
even one policeman had cut notches in his club for every student he hit?” I said, “Yes.”
And as a matter of fact, years later I looked at that tape which someone had for me, and
what the visual was, was the cop with the club with the notches. Anyway, I said, “Yes.”
And he said, “Then obviously you were not objective in anything you say about the
police. You’re just a cop hater.” And the judge threw the jury out of the room and said.
“That’s absolutely right.” He said, “I impeached the testimony.” And so I never went
and did any more testifying.
But Arthur - long way around - but Arthur was. And the History department was also the
- the key was Nathan Hare. They would not give him an appointment, and Ray was the
chair of the department. Ah, this comes together now. They would not give him an
appointment as Professor of History. Usually when we hire an administrator as a, you
know, courtesy, we get an appointment -
[End of Tape 4 -Side 4 (A)]
[End of Interview of March 13, 1992]